The Hung Jury and the Unanimous Requirement

It is required that in order for a jury to reach a verdict, everyone must agree to the decision made. Unanimity is required in all federal court civil and criminal trials, in all state court criminal trials, and in most civil trials in those courts. Sometimes the entire jury is not able to agree on the verdict, resulting in a deadlocked or hung jury.

When judges are informed this situation has occurred, they tell the jury to continue the deliberations because the alternative is to have the entire case tried over again with a new jury. In order to push the jury into arriving at a verdict, judges urge those in the minority to reconsider their positions by reexamining the evidence carefully and to ask themselves whether their disagreement with the majority is still correct from their viewpoint. Although this device was popular among judges, many courts have abandoned it because it seems coercive.

Many courts now use another instruction drafted by the American Bar Association which asks jurors in the minority to reconsider their position and the evidence; jurors should change their stand only if they are convinced based on the evidence but not because they feel pressed to conform to the majority view.


Inside The Hung Jury and the Unanimous Requirement