Mistrials are common in cases where the stakes are high, such as murder trials. Jury deliberations can be long and difficult, and making a decision may be difficult for a group when the defendant faces life in prison or even the death penalty.
Of course, murder cases are not the only time mistrials occur. Bill Cosby faced an infamous mistrial in a case of sexual assault, and many other cases have ended the same way. By the end of a mistrial, many people might feel as if justice will never be served because the trial had no conclusion.
If the idea of a mistrial is confusing, keep reading. State and federal laws are clear about how mistrials work.
What Is a Mistrial?
A mistrial is technically a trial that was not successfully completed. The trial had no conclusion, so the defendant does not have either a guilty or not guilty verdict. The prosecution will then need to determine how to best proceed with the case.
What Causes a Mistrial?
A judge may call a mistrial for many reasons. For instance, somebody may have made a statement in front of the jury that prompted prejudice toward the defense. In this case, the defendant's right to a fair trial has been sabotaged.
Some things happen outside the power of the defense or prosecution. The court may call a mistrial if an attorney or member of the jury has passed away during the trial.
Jury selection errors also lead to mistrial. Perhaps a juror was actually a relative or friend of the victim or defendant. Or maybe a juror participated in misconduct. For example, a juror may have researched the case at home in spite of jury instructions not to.
Finally, a mistrial happens when the jury is deadlocked at the trial's end. When the court requires a unanimous decision, this is a big problem.
What Happens After a Mistrial?
After a mistrial, the court may bring an individual back to trial later or the prosecution may choose to drop all charges. If they drop the charges, this means, in the law's eyes, the trial never happened and the prosecution never brought charges against the defense.
You may wonder if a mistrial triggers the double jeopardy clause, which is where a person is on trial for the same offense. It does not. An individual can be tried for the same crime if the original court case did not result in a valid conclusion. This means the court can schedule another trial in the near future.
If the prosecution wishes to pursue the trial, the defendant may choose to accept a plea bargain. This may happen if the defendant believes he or she may be found guilty during the second trial.
Is a Mistrial Bad?
Mistrials pose problems for both the prosecution and the defense. Not only does going through another trial mean additional wasted financial resources, but also means calling in witnesses and experts once again.
For both sides, a retrial means that each knows the information the other will present. As a result, each side has a better opportunity to rebut. Few opportunities to spring a surprise on the other side are present at this point. Both parties have more time to support their cases.
What Can You Do to Prevent a Mistrial?
If the law has charged you with a crime, you need assistance from a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney. If you are ready to work toward your defense, you have several options to choose from in Missouri. Call David Naumann & Associates to see how we can fight for you.