FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

When Can You Get a New Trial?

The notorious "Hiccup Girl" -- who made headlines years ago for her inability to stop hiccuping and recently re-entered the spotlight after being convicted of first-degree murder -- is requesting a new trial.

After making it all the way through trial, defendants can seek new trials. Getting a new trial isn't easy, but it is possible under certain circumstances.

Here are five situations which have warranted new trials:

  1. Juror misconduct. If juror misconduct is discovered before the jury deliberates, a judge can dismiss the misbehaving jurors and call up alternates to serve instead. But if jury deliberations are already underway, a judge may order a new trial with a new jury. That's what happened when a suspended lawyer in New York lied to get on a jury in a tax fraud case.
  2. Newly discovered evidence. A new trial may be granted when new, important evidence is discovered -- but it must be discovered after the trial (meaning, it wasn't reasonably possible to discover it before or during trial); it must also be so pivotal that it could potentially cause a jury to reach a different verdict. The "Hiccup Girl's" attorney, for example, is requesting a new trial because he claims there's newly discovered evidence about a key witness that could have made a material difference in the outcome of her case, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
  3. Significant legal error. A new trial may be granted if legal error -- such as faulty juror forms, wrongly excluded evidence, or bad jury instructions -- affected the trial's outcome. In the "Hiccup Girl's" case, her attorney is claiming the judge erred in matters of jury instructions.
  4. Exculpatory evidence held by prosecutors. A defendant is constitutionally entitled to a new trial when the case is prejudiced because the state suppressed evidence (even inadvertently) that is favorable to the defendant (i.e., exculpatory or impeachment evidence).
  5. Other injustices. In addition to the situations above, a judge may grant a new trial to remedy an injustice related to the first trial. For example, one appeals court reversed a lower court's denial of a motion for a new trial because of a sequestration violation in which two witnesses were caught talking to each other.

If you think a mistake in your case should warrant a new trial, make sure to bring it to your criminal defense lawyer's attention as soon as possible. To learn more about other post-trial remedies, check out FindLaw's sections on Criminal Appeals and Criminal Rights.

Related Resources: