October 26, 2014 • Legal Terminology
For personal injury or accident cases in New York, there is a jury trial. The jury will usually have six members, and at least five members should unanimously agree to a decision to reach a verdict. Only when five members of the jury are agreeable to a decision, a judgment can be passed.
What happens when the jury is not able to decide?
Sometimes the members of the jury may not be able to decide, and come to an agreement about a verdict. In such instances, the defense will ask the judge to call it a mistrial, but the plaintiff’s lawyer will want the jury to reconsider and come to a verdict. In this situation, the judge will usually call the jurors into his chambers and give them certain instructions.
This will usually be a pep talk, where the jurors are encouraged to go back, again deliberate, and come to a decision. The judge will say that it does not matter what the decision is, but a decision should be reached. They will be sent back to continue deliberations, and several hours might go by, as the jury is trying to reach a decision.
What is the course of action when the jury is deadlocked?
Even after hours of further deliberation, the jury might send a note to the judge saying they are deadlocked. This means, five jurors are unable to come to the same decision, which is required for the verdict. In such instances, the judge will call both the attorneys and ask them how they would like to proceed.
The defense attorney will usually want to declare a mistrial, as that is advantageous for their case. The plaintiff’s lawyer will not want to declare a mistrial, unless there is something going on, which is highly prejudicial for his client. Only if the lawyer feels there is something prejudicial that could affect his client and the possible outcome, he may agree to a mistrial. In all other instances, the plaintiff’s lawyer, will recommend that the judge again talk to the jury, and encourage them to deliberate further and come to a decision.
There are marvelous chances the judge might again instruct the jury to deliberate further, because the judge will not want a mistrial. However, even after repeated attempts, the jury is still deadlocked; the judge will have to declare it a mistrial.
The Effects of a Mistrial
If it were declared a mistrial, the entire course of the trial that has taken place would be a complete waste. It does not matter how long the trial has gone on, whether it is days, weeks, or months, the entire trial will be thrown out in a mistrial, and no judge would want that to happen. All the money and resources that have gone into the trial, of the court, and both the parties, would be a waste. Whatever was put in for trying this case is now for nothing. When a mistrial is declared, the whole case has to be tried again from the start, and a new jury will be selected.