Book an appointment using SetMore

What is a Mistrial?

A mistrial is when a criminal trial did not end with a ruling, meaning the court did not state you are guilty or not guilty. This happens after the defendant and prosecutors have both represented their cases to the jury. If, after the jury deliberates, they cannot agree unanimously and are in a deadlock, then the trial could be declared a mistrial.

A deadlocked jury is also more commonly known as a “hung jury” ; this is when a verdict cannot be reached despite honest attempts. Judges will often try to avoid a mistrial and often send juries back into deliberations with an “Allen Charge”. An Allen Charge, also known as a “dynamite” or “hammer” charge, is when the jury is given instructions to prevent a hung jury. It calls for jurors’ attention to the expense and significant time of the trial and urges them to reconsider their vote. This mostly targets the minority. The Allen Charge is a way to avoid inefficiency as a mistrial costs the court system a lot of money. Also, it is important to note an Allen Charge is more beneficial to the prosecution than the defendant.

If after the Allen Charge, the jury remains deadlocked in their voting, then the judge will decide if the jury is “deadlocked” or “hung” if they believe that further deliberations will not change the outcome. Once a judge declares the jury to be “hung” or “deadlocked”, it is then when the judge will declare a mistrial.

Reasons For A Mistrial

Besides the jury not being able to reach a unanimous decision, there are other reasons for a mistrial trial to be declared by the judge. One reason could be evidence was tampered with or improperly introduced in the trial, this is a rule violation and can cause a mistrial. Also, if a juror has been discussing the case with the media, contacting either the defense or prosecuting parties involved and if they are considering evidence that was not admitted to the trial, then it could be a mistrial. These actions are detrimental to not only the case but unfair to the defendant. If either attorney is accused of misconduct, such as sharing case information with the media, talking over the other party’s attorne, or any type of disorderly conduct, it can also cause a mistrial. If a juror or an attorney passes away or some other disruption happens during the trial, this can also cause there to be a mistrial.

How To Motion For A Mistrial?

There is also a possibility for either the prosecutor or defense attorney to file a motion for a mistrial, thus requesting it. If you sense improper evidence is presented during a trial that can harm the defendant, you might be able to file a motion for a mistrial. In order to file a motion, the defense attorney has to prove a couple things. They will have to prove an error happened that was not invited or provoked; the error was preserved by a proper trial predicate such as an objection, a motion to instruct or a mistrial or if that error was not curable by any instruction or prompted a withdrawal statement or reprimand by the judge

It is important to note if the defense does decide to motion for a mistrial they must move quickly, making the motion as soon as the error occurs or is disclosed and there is sufficient prejudice to justify the motion.

A motion for mistrial is made by orally declaring that the counsel is moving for a mistrial and they state their grounds. In some jurisdictions motions for a mistrial in a jury trial are called “motions for the withdrawal of a juror” this phrase comes from the common-law notion that if a juror withdraws from the jury, then there are not enough jurors to make a lawful decision and the case has to be retried before a new jury.

Examples of Mistrials in Texas

Mistrials happen rarely as most judges want to come to a definitive guilty or not guilty verdict for each case. For example, there was a case of a mistrial that happened in Dallas, Texas; it was a murder case that was declared a mistrial. The jury was at a deadlock of 11 jurors to 1 juror, the judge ordered the jurors multiple times to deliberate in hopes the jurors would come to a resolution, but they did not. Unfortunately, when this happens, the trial now has to be re-trialed, which means the process will take more time and money.

Another mistrial was the Texas Healthcare fraud case, which was worth $158 million. In this case, an attorney had a medical emergency and put the case on pause, as they were not able to attend. The judge declared a mistrial because they were afraid the jury would not be able to remember the case, as it was on a pause for about a month.

A mistrial can happen in a peculiar way, a perfect example of this is when a defense attorney notices jurors from an old case were guest speakers for jury appreciation week. In the City of Houston, officials have an appreciation week for jurors to promote more potential jurors and also a way to say thank you to the previous jurors. This is when the defense attorney noticed the comments were biased in stating they were providing “justice” for victims. He then noticed some jurors from the appreciation week were picked for his client’s trial and so he asked the judge for a mistrial. Because of the comments presented, the judge agreed to the mistrial.

What Are the Consequences Of A Mistrial?

Some consequences of a mistrial are that the charges do not go away and instead, the prosecution will reschedule the trial. It is good to note this is not considered “Double Jeopardy” as the first trial was declared void, as it was a mistrial. Double Jeopardy means no person, for the same offense, should be put in jeopardy of life or liberty, nor should a person be put on trial again for the same offense, especially after a verdict of not guilty is given in a court of competent jurisdiction.

Another thing that can happen is a plea bargain can be reached between the prosecutor and the defense attorney. Normally, a plea bargain is reached before a trial starts, but if a plea bargain was not made and the verdict of a mistrial was declared. It could prompt a plea bargain to be made by the prosecutor to resolve the case, the plea bargain can be in your favor. Also, consult with your attorney before accepting any deal.

What Are The Pros Of Mistrials?

The main goal of the justice system is to provide the defendant with a fair trial. When a mistrial is given, it can be beneficial to the defendant, as there could be a chance the charges are dropped. Another advantage a mistrial can have is there would be a transcript of all the witnesses who testified. If there are any variations or changes made during the retrial, the defense attorney can use that against them in the retrial.

What Are The Cons of a Mistrial?

The downside of mistrials is the trial can be retried, which is not only time-consuming, but it costs the courts and client a lot of money. It can also be seen as unfair as the defendant can be retried multiple times, allowing the prosecutors to keep trying to indict them.

Need Help? Call Us Now!

Do not forget when you or anyone you know is facing a criminal charge, you have us, the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, by your side to help you build the best defense case for you. We can explain everything you need to know about your trial and fight in your best interest. Therefore, do not hesitate to call us if you find yourself or someone you know who is facing criminal charges unsure about the court system. We will work with you to give you the best type of defense that can help you solve your case. It is vital to have someone explain to you the result of the charge and guide you in the best possible way.

Here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we have professional and knowledgeable criminal law attorneys who are experienced in building a defense that suits your needs. We also offer free consultations at your convenience, via Zoom, phone or in-person. We will provide you with as much advice and information so you can have the best possible result in your case. Call us now at 281-810-9760.

Fill Out To Watch Now!

  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.