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Hung juries in California for criminal cases

San Jose, CA |

There is no direct way to say about a trial if the jury will be hung or not. But in general is there some concrete data that shows what percentage of criminal trials result in hung juries(I am interested in California only)? How often do 1-2 jurors get swayed to just convict the defendant even if they did not agree with the other 10-11 jurors? Why will they just do that even though they cannot be prosecuted, they would just look bad to the judge but nothing more.

Attorney Answers 4


The dynamics of intra-jury debate and decision making are the subject of much speculation among attorneys. I'm not aware of any published data on the percentage of trials in California that result in a hung jury. Even if such data were available, it's not clear what useful insight could be gleaned from such information. Over 90% of cases in California don't go to trial so those that do surely represent a self selected group of cases. Often they are cases that are overcharged, weak, or where there is no plea offered or where trying the case does not offer a significant difference in sentencing versus accepting a plea offer. Often there are "leaders" and "followers" on the jury and hung juries result where two groups are pitted against eachother or there is recalcitrant outlier who refuses to change his/her vote. You may what to have a gander at the original 1957 "12 Angry Men" for an interesting if overly dramatic portrayal of the jury process. Bottom line, jury deliberations are secret and will remain largely a matter of interesting speculation. Juries are unpredictable. Good luck

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Very detailed and helpful answer. This can also mean that many times prosecutor may not dismiss the case till the very end and try to gamble to get the defendant to get some sort of deal? Is it better l to wait till the end like say the day of the jury trial to get a good deal?

Vijay Dinakar

Vijay Dinakar


Possibly. Sometimes the best deal is offered at the outset of the case and any subsequent deal(s) get worse as the case is delayed. Basically the DA will attempt to give the defendant as much time as possible given available evidence, perceived probability of winning, "marching orders" from his superiors, etc. It obviously depends on the specifics of the case, there's no general rule that can be applied. There's some interesting game theory literature written on trials but its unclear how applicable such theoretical work is to actual everyday trial practice.


All good topics to research. I bet there's tons of research. I would start with the California DOJ. Good luck.
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This is one of the most interesting aspects of jury trials. As my colleague said above, there is a lot of speculating. However, I bet most attorneys hang their hat in some learned knowledge.

This reply should NOT be considered a legal opinion of your case / inquiry. At this time I do not have sufficient factual/legal documentation to give a complete answer to your question and there may be more to the issues you raised then I have set out in my brief reply

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Jurors take an oath to do their civic duty as the trier of fact. Although no juror will admit it, I do believe that while in deliberations a juror or 2 that is known as "the hold out" are pressured by their peers because "it's Friday " mentality, meaning, let's just vote and get the heck out of here!! That is why it is so important during voir dire that you explore this issue. Who will have the spine to stick with their decision? It takes guts to do that because the other jurors will be pressuring them to vote! make sure to go over this when questioning the jury so they don't buckle under pressure, they have to live with their decision forever!

This is a general statement regarding law and facts and should not be construed as an attorney-client relationship or a solicitation for same.

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