From: KARE 11 TV, Minneapolis NBC Affiliate
What are the possible outcomes in the Derek Chauvin trial?
Guilty, not guilty or hung jury? Retired Judge LaJune Lange helps explain the possible endings for the trial of the former officer charged in George Floyd’s death.
April 16, 2021
There is always the possibility that the jury will be unable to come to a unanimous verdict, commonly referred to as a “hung jury.” The official term for this is a “deadlocked jury,” or one for which “the court finds there is no reasonable probability of agreement.”
If this happens, prosecutors would then have to decide whether to retry Chauvin. It would take a significant amount of time to once again prepare, go through pretrial motions and select a new jury.
While questioning potential jurors, defense attorney Eric Nelson asked each person if they are willing to stand their ground when everyone else disagrees with them. One person like this can change the course of a verdict, or potentially cause a hung jury.
Retired judge LaJune Lange said a hung jury is “not that common.” In her years on the bench, she can’t remember it happening to her. However, she did have juries return to her for additional instruction when they struggled to reach a unanimous verdict.
“The judge would give them an instruction that they could reconsider their own opinion and all the evidence and return to the jury room to continue their deliberations,” Lange said. “But that might be several days of deliberation before a jury would be brought into a judge saying that they have not been able to reach a unanimous verdict. That doesn’t happen automatically or right away.”
Lange said if the judge has to give further instruction, it will be carefully scripted.
“You have to quote the law,” she said. “This is something you absolutely cannot make up. So there’s all kinds of legal precedence in terms of limiting the specific language that you can talk to the jury.”
There’s no set amount of time a jury will be given to reach unanimity.
“It depends on the volume of evidence, the judge’s experience and then all other circumstances,” Lange said. “So it would not be a short process.”
One important point to remember, Lange said, is that the judge could accept a partial verdict if the jury can agree on at least one charge. If they are deadlocked on the other charges, the state may not be able to retry those again, because they are all part of a “common scheme.” Another way to explain this, according to former Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty, is that “the charges all involve different theories about the same acts.”
According to the Minnesota rules of criminal procedure, “The court may accept a partial verdict if the jury has reached a verdict on fewer than all of the charges and is unable to reach a verdict on the rest.” The rules also state that partial verdicts “may bar further prosecution of any counts over which the jury has deadlocked.”
Moriarty said a judge could theoretically refuse to accept a partial verdict, but she has never seen it happen.