Jury deliberations can be a nail-biting experience. Juries have been known to deliberate for a few hours, a few days, or even a few weeks. When the moment of truth finally arrives and the jury returns to the courtroom with their final decision, you may be in for a major letdown. Your jury might not be able to reach a verdict. This usually means the judge must declare a mistrial and your fate remains hanging in the balance.
A mistrial may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you decide to look at things. Mistrials can occur in several ways, including prosecutorial misconduct and anything that might unfairly prejudice a jury, like walking the defendant into the courtroom in handcuffs. A mistrial often results from a “hung jury,” which is when jurors cannot agree upon a verdict. A mistrial may mean the judge will arrange for a new trial before an entirely new jury. Starting over from square one after so much time and effort went into the first trial may leave you feeling deflated. However, a second bite at the apple also allows you to reevaluate your case strategy with your attorney. If prosecutors do not wish to try your case again, it may even be dismissed.
If your criminal case ended in a mistrial, you might be facing an entirely new trial in front of a new jury. Our Utah criminal defense lawyers can help you strategize more effectively and hopefully get the verdict you want. For a free legal consultation, call Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287.
Results of a Criminal Mistrial in Utah
When there is misconduct or a hung jury or something of that nature, the judge will declare a mistrial. In many mistrial cases, the entire process must start from the beginning, with your case being retried in front of a new jury. A mistrial is often the result of a hung jury or a deadlocked jury and unable to reach a verdict. However, there may be other reasons besides a jury deadlock that could lead to a mistrial.
While mistrials often lead to new trials, charges could be dropped if the prosecutor does not wish to retry them. Cases tend to be dismissed by the judge instead of dropped by the prosecutor after mistrials involving some type of misconduct. For example, a prosecutor’s misconduct caused the mistrial, the judge may dismiss the case entirely. Complete dismissal would mean that you are free to go and you cannot be tried again as double jeopardy would attach to your case.
If you want to discuss your new trial in a free legal consultation, call our Ogden criminal defense lawyers as soon as possible.
Using a Mistrial to Your Advantage in Utah Criminal Cases
The fact that you had a previous mistrial cannot be used against you in your new trial. For example, prosecutors cannot tell jurors that your hung jury resulted from only a single juror hold-out, so your case must be very weak. However, previous sworn statements from your first trial may be used in some ways in your new trial. A mistrial presents a unique opportunity for you to strengthen your case the second time around. After having already gone through one trial, you are now more familiar with the prosecutor’s strategy and evidence. This may make it easier for you to come up with a more effective strategy of your own. However, this knife cuts both ways, as the prosecutor will also be familiar with your case strategy from the first trial.
You may also be able to use your mistrial as a bargaining chip for plea agreements. Prosecutors are very busy and often cannot afford to put so much time into a single case, let alone double the time to try it again. After a mistrial, your prosecutor may be more inclined to offer a more generous plea agreement in the hopes that you waive your trial rights. If you are open to a plea agreement, this may be the perfect opportunity to negotiate for more agreeable terms. Our Park City criminal defense lawyers can help you make the most of this unfortunate situation.
Common Causes of Mistrials in Utah Criminal Cases
A mistrial could have any number of causes. In most circumstances, the causes of a mistrial somehow interfere with the jury’s ability to reach a fair and impartial decision. Unfortunately, the causes of mistrials are not always clear until it is too late and you have already gone through some of the trials. In the interest of justice, trials are usually rescheduled, and new juries are selected. During the second trial, the court will avoid whatever caused the mistrial the first time around.
A common cause of mistrials is a hung jury. A hung jury, as mentioned above, is a term used to describe a jury that is deadlocked and cannot come to a unanimous agreement. It is possible to have a hung jury, and thus a mistrial, even if the jury agrees on all charges but one. Unless the jurors can reach an agreement regarding the final charge, the entire trial process must start over with a new jury.
Jury deliberations are often difficult, and jurors like to take their time to ensure the verdict they reach is the right one. It is normal for a jury to come back to a judge and claim they cannot agree. Usually, the judge will send them back with instructions to keep trying at least once or twice before declaring a mistrial. Only when it becomes clear there is no hope for a unanimous decision will a mistrial be declared.
Inability to Serve
A mistrial may also be declared when jurors or other important people in the trial cannot continue serving. In some cases, when a jury is selected, a few extra jurors will be chosen as alternates who can fill in if a few jurors have to drop out. However, if no alternates are available or no alternates are left, the judge may have to declare a mistrial if the remaining jurors cannot serve. Reasons a juror may not be able to sere include illness and death. Without the requisite number of jurors, the case must start over with a new jury.
If the jury is given inadmissible evidence that the court already ruled they should not have access to, this may also be grounds for a mistrial. The jury will have been tainted by the evidence they were never supposed to consider, making a fair and impartial verdict all the more difficult.
Acts of misconduct, either by the parties to the case or the jurors themselves, could result in a mistrial. Misconduct may involve jury tampering or trying to sway a jury unlawfully. It can also include jury intimidation and threats to the jury if they do not reach a certain verdict. The jurors themselves may be guilty of misconduct if they break court rules, such as discussing the case outside the courtroom or trying to conduct their own independent research into evidence. Misconduct may lead to a complete dismissal rather than a new trial in some cases.
Acts of jury tampering or intimidation may also result in criminal charges. A defendant cannot interfere with the jury in the hopes of securing a mistrial and getting a shot at a new trial.
If you experienced one of the above problems at your trial or another problem that resulted in a mistrial, please reach out to our Murray criminal defense attorneys for help.
Contact Our Utah Criminal Defense Lawyers for a Free Consultation
If you have been charged with a crime or experienced a mistrial, please get in touch with our Sandy criminal defense lawyers. Schedule a free legal consultation by calling Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287.