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Deadlocked Juries in South Florida Criminal Cases

Introduction

Not all criminal cases tried to a jury in Florida end with a “guilty” or “not guilty” verdict. Sometimes, the jury will “deadlock,” which means that the jury will be unable to arrive at a verdict. This can result in a mistrial and require the prosecution to retry the defendant or dismiss the charges against him or her.

Reasons for a Deadlocked Jury

There is a simple explanation for many deadlocked juries in Florida: Some jurors are convinced of the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt while others are not. In other words, when the prosecution does not carry its obligation of convincing all of the jurors of the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, then a deadlocked jury will be the result.

There is another, less common reason for deadlocked juries. Sometimes the jury is not questioning the defendant’s guilt, but instead questions the legitimacy of the law which the defendant is accused of violating. When a whole jury believes the defendant is guilty but believes the law that the defendant is charged with violating is unjust or unfair, that jury is said to have “nullified” the criminal law under which the defendant is charged.

Whatever the underlying reason, whenever a jury cannot agree as to a verdict in a case, that jury is “deadlocked.”

Can the Court Break the Deadlock?

Usually the first indication that the court or attorneys receive that a jury is deadlocked is a note passed from the jury foreperson to the bailiff and delivered to the court that indicates the jury cannot agree as to a verdict. At this point, the court has two options: (1) Declare a mistrial; or (2) force the jury to continue its deliberations.

The court must be cautious in taking the second option. A court may not suggest to the jury that it must arrive at a verdict or insinuate that the court will keep the jury in deliberations until they are able to arrive at a verdict. Furthermore, the court should not inquire as to the nature of the division (i.e., the court need not know and should not attempt to learn how many jurors favor conviction and how many favor acquittal). Finally, the court should not suggest to the jurors (either individually or as a group) that jurors should abandon their firmly-held convictions concerning the guilt or innocence of the defendant in order to reach a unanimous verdict.

Seek Help from a Competent Criminal Defense Lawyer

Dealing with a deadlocked jury is a delicate matter, one that should be handled by an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney. Jeffrey S. Weiner has years of experience in handling all types of criminal cases before juries and will ensure your rights are protected and a vigorous defense to the charges is mounted throughout the duration of your case. Contact Jeffrey S. Weiner today for assistance with your case by calling (305) 670-9919 or contact his office online.

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