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What Happens When a Jury is Deadlocked?

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on August 17, 2010 11:25 AM

As the jury in the corruption and fraud trial for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich enters its thirteenth day of deliberations, there is still no agreement on all charges. The jury has sent a note to the presiding judge, U.S. District Court Judge James B. Zagel, saying they have agreed to two counts, have not come to an agreement on 11 counts, and have not yet deliberated on the remaining 11 counts, which involve wire fraud.

The jury is still attempting to come to a decision on the outstanding charges and, according to the Chicago Tribune, have sent a note to Judge Zagel asking for a transcript of the testimony of Bradley Tusk, who gave evidence on the governor's contacts with then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel. This is the first time the jury has specifically asked for a transcript of a particular witness.

What happens if, despite requests for information or clarification from the judge, the jury in this case cannot come to a unanimous decision on all the counts Gov. Blagojevich and his brother, Robert, were accused of? Since the case against Governor Blagojevich is a federal one, the jury must come to an unanimous decision. If they cannot, and the jury is deadlocked, they are declared a hung jury.

If a jury becomes a hung jury, the court usually declares a mistrial on the charges. Mistrials will not bar a retrial on those charges, should the prosecutors decide to proceed with retrying the defendant. In the alternative, prosecutors can accept the verdict on all counts the jury has returned a verdict on and the court will sentence the defendant on those counts alone, if he or she has been convicted. A retrial on charges not decided upon by a unanimous verdict is not subject to the rule against double jeopardy. Double jeopardy generally prohibits a defendant for being retried for the same crime once acquitted by a jury.

In the case of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, neither the judge nor jury are quite willing to throw in the towel just yet. Since they have asked for more information, the jury is clearly continuing to make the best attempt possible to come to a verdict in this important trial.

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