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YourValentine user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 27 Sep 07, 07:28 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Can anyone explain to me what may be the "next steps" after the judge declared a "mistrial"? Each time I read about these famous cases I am more lost about the way the judicial system in the US works. Now that the jury could not come up with a "guilty" verdict - does it mean he is innocent by law or does it mean the state has to find another jury and start the whole trial all over again?


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Posted: 27 Sep 07, 08:09 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I believe that a mistrial will usually mean that the defendant must be given a new trial.

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Posted: 27 Sep 07, 08:30 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

This is kind of complicated to explain, but I'll give it a shot.
In the US if you are charged with a crime you are automatically given a trail by a jury of your peers if you plead not guilty (unless you are an enemy combatant in Guantanamo, but that's another story). The jury is charged with determining the guilt or innocence of the person in theory, but the instructions they are given are more along the lines of "Did the prosecution prove that the person charged with a crime is guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt?" which by extension determines the guilt or innocence of the person. Any verdict that the jury reaches has to be unanimous, meaning that all of the jurors have to agree that the person is guilty or innocent.
This is the case of a mistrail. This is a little different. What basically happened is that the jury could not come to a unanimous decision...there were 2 people on the jury in this case who would not be persuaded by the other jurors to go the same way they were leaning (it hasn't been said which determination the jury was leaning towards, guilty or innocent). When it became apparrant to the jury that they would not reach a unanimous verdict no matter how long they debated, they notified the judge of the trail. In this case, the judge commonly will issue new instructions to the jury, clarifying areas that they are supposed to question in an effort to get the jury to decide; for example, the judge will say "If you decide that this scenario of what happened on the night in question is what happened, this technically means the defendant is guilty". The idea here is that the judge has to try and figure out where the jurors are having trouble coming to an agreement and try to help them to come to one. Sometimes it works. In this case it didn't.
After clarification, the jurors were still unable to come to a unanimous decision, and they again notified the judge. The only option at this point is for the judge to declare a mistrial. What that means is that literally that "The jury failed to come to a verdict. The prosecution failed to adequately prove the guilt of the defendant beyond the shadow of a doubt, and the defense also failed to prove the innocence of the defendant beyond the shadow of a doubt." A mistrial does not affect the "guilt" or "innocence" of the defendant. It basically means the trial itself fell apart and it was impossible to come to a decision, so no verdict was reached.
Now the prosecution has the ball. It is up to them to decide if they are going to press the charges against the defendant again, thus resulting in a re-trial on the same charges. In this case, they probably will press charges again because of the seriousness of the accusations and their belief that he is guilty. So now everything starts from scratch. There is a new judge, new jury, new defense lawyers and new prosecution lawyers. It's like the first trail never happened. Essentially this is a "do over".
This does not count as double jeopardy (being tried for the same crime twice) because a verdict was never reached in the first trail. A mistrial wipes that off the table....like the first trial never occurred.


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Posted: 27 Sep 07, 08:42 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

HistoryGirl wrote:


So now everything starts from scratch. There is a new judge, new jury, new defense lawyers and new prosecution lawyers.


Great info, HistoryGirl.

I hadn't realized it was up to the prosecution to decide whether to retry him, I thought (okay, "assumed"), they had to. I also didn't realize they would have an entirely new team. Does the defendant HAVE to have new defense lawyers or is that an option? In a way, I think fresh eyes would be great, but then again, this team experienced the argument against their client first hand, so they might be better able to defend him second time around.

???



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Posted: 27 Sep 07, 08:52 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

magicalfreddiemercury wrote:

HistoryGirl wrote:


So now everything starts from scratch. There is a new judge, new jury, new defense lawyers and new prosecution lawyers.


Great info, HistoryGirl.

I hadn't realized it was up to the prosecution to decide whether to retry him, I thought (okay, "assumed"), they had to. I also didn't realize they would have an entirely new team. Does the defendant HAVE to have new defense lawyers or is that an option? In a way, I think fresh eyes would be great, but then again, this team experienced the argument against their client first hand, so they might be better able to defend him second time around.

???


Technically it's up the prosecution to decide. Whenever the prosecution decides to press charges against someone, it's based around this question of "Can we prove it to a jury?" If they don't think they can get a conviction, a lot of time they will decline to press charges against someone. But with a capital case like this (murder), normally they will press charges anyway. But now they've had a crack at it in one trial, so it's a bit of a reality check. They, in theory, threw everything they had at the jury and failed to get a verdict. Now it's up to them to decide if they think they can use the same information they used before to get a verdict this time. If they don't think they can, they have the option of declining to press charges, which would mean the mistrial stands and he is let go (though he isn't innocent and he's not guilty). But again, because this is a murder case and a high profile one at that, they will probably go for another trail.
I think that in theory they could use the same lawyers from the first trial, but normally they don't. The whole point of lawyers is to argue effectively for their case, and both sides proved unable to do that...thus the resulting mistrial. The Prosecutors office will probably appoint a new prosecution team for the next case, though they may keep a lawyer on from the first case as a consultant or a junior member of the team.
Going into a new trail after a mistrial has been declared is technically by law a "re-do", but it's not viewed that way by the lawyers. Now they've proven that the arguments and tactics that they used were ineffective, so why would they use them again? The evidence remains the same to be sure, as does the details of the night in question, etc. But the prosecution and the defense will try different arguments for this trial because they are trying to prove their point. If it didn't work before, it's not likely to work again. And strategically, both sides are aware that the other side will change their game plan. I'm sure that for the next week or so both sets of lawyers will be having meetings to pick apart where they think the other side was strong, and where they think the other side was weak, and they will assume that the other side will be doing the same thing about themselves. They will not assume that the other team will bring the same argument to the new trial.


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Posted: 27 Sep 07, 09:12 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Here is a link to an analysis of the trial from NewsWeek. Apparently 10 jurors were voting to convict, while 2 were holding out. But they talk to a legal expert who is able to answer a lot of these questions clearer than I can:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20999651/site/newsweek/

Hmmm...that link doesn't wanna work
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20999651/site/newsweek/page/0/

GAH! Both are acting up.
Well, at any rate, if you go to www.msnbc.com and look on the left hand side of the page there is a line of pop-up menus. Click on the one that says "Newsweek" and look towards the top. There is a link that says, "Will Phil Spector get a new trial?". Click on that and it will take you to the article.

Hope this helps!



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Posted: 27 Sep 07, 09:25 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

HistoryGirl wrote:

The jury is charged with determining the guilt or innocence of the person in theory, but the instructions they are given are more along the lines of "Did the prosecution prove that the person charged with a crime is guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt?" which by extension determines the guilt or innocence of the person.

What that means is that literally that "The jury failed to come to a verdict. The prosecution failed to adequately prove the guilt of the defendant beyond the shadow of a doubt, and the defense also failed to prove the innocence of the defendant beyond the shadow of a doubt."


Awesome summary, but I have a few things to note:

The burden of proof that the prosecution faces in a criminal trial, as is this, is "beyond a _reasonable_ doubt," rather than "beyond the shadow of a doubt." This means that if a reasonable person would have any doubts over the guilt of the defendant, he is 100% not guilty. On the other hand, if a reasonable person would not have any doubts, he is 100% guilty. Keep in mind that a juror may have doubts about the defendant's guilt and still vote guilty, as long as those doubts do not conflict with a reasonable person's belief that the defendant is guilty.

As to the second paragraph I quoted, a few clarifications. If the prosecution fails to prove the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt, that means that the defendant is _not guilty_. Mind you, the defense doesn't actually need to prove anything. The job of the defense is only to provide reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors. Innocence does not need to be proven.

I haven't paid any attention to the case, but it seems that there was a hung jury, resulting in a mistrial. What this means is that the jurors could not unanimously agree upon whether the prosecution proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant's guilt. Nothing more, nothing less.

I'm sorry, and I don't mean to be nitpicky, but I felt that these were important details.


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Posted: 27 Sep 07, 09:50 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Thank you very much for the answers. I know about the required unanimous vote by the jury and my question was mostly about what happens next. I am surprised they can start the whole trial all over when the system did not provide a verdict. I saw on CNN that the judge instructed the jury when they were hung 7:5 votes and it was explained that the instruction was unprecedented and opened the door for appeal because the judge went far beyond usual instruction.

This is what I find interesting in the article you posted, HistoryGirl:

"It’s possible the prosecutor will want to avoid another five-month trial and may try to get him to plead to a lesser charge. The issue there is that Phil Spector has made it very clear that he does not want to go to jail, and the D.A. is unlikely to accept any sort of deal that doesn’t include jail time."

I do not understand - if he killed the woman he should be convicted provided they can prove it. If he did NOT kill her why would anybody agree to such a deal? Is this about the truth at all? I see words like "game plan" used in this article but it's not a game, it's about a serious crime.




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Posted: 27 Sep 07, 12:29 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Thanks for the clarifications you provided MusicMan. I openly admit that I'm not a trained legalist and figured my explanation was leaving a few holes. Thanks for filling them in for me! :-)

As for YourValentine, it depends on what Phil Spector thinks really. The DA is going to be gunning to prove him guilty as they do think he did it...that is their job after all. If they manage to get him convicted on the charges as they stand now, that means Phil could be facing life in prison without the possibility of parole or even the death penalty (I'm not sure). There are a couple of options that could happen now that you are questioning:
1) The DA now knows that with all of the evidence he had and as the case was presented, a verdict was not reached. He may feel that they did the best that they could, and if that wasn't enough for a verdict, may not want to fight the fight again in another trial. So he may offer Phil a lesser charge that he could plead to, which would mean less jail time.
2) What Phil will do. That depends on him really. If he is completely innocent or even if he isn't but thinks that the can make the jury doubt that he did it, then he'll fight this again in another trial. But remember that it is a gamble if he does this. The jury was 10 for conviction and 2 hold outs....that means the prosecution was VERY close to proving their case against him, and he was VERY close to getting convicted, and thus getting jail time. Should he gamble on a second trial and lose, he will face the full punishment. He may decide that he is likely to be convicted if he faces another jury and decide to plead to a lesser charge if it's offered to him, so that way he avoids the possibility of the full penalty. He'll still go to jail for a while, but a while is better than the rest of your life.

I know this is about determining the guilt of innocence of a person who is accused of a crime, but the only way to do that if the person does not confess his guilt to the crime is through and investigation and through others who were not even there. This turns the process into a bit of a game...see who proves their case better to the jurors. It's not the best of options for the accused in an ideal world I'll admit, but this is hardly an ideal world. It's the best that can be done for right now I think.

As for doing the trial over again, they can because it's not double jeopardy. It is against the law in the US to have a case of double jeopardy, which is where you try someone twice for the same crime. For example, we cannot try OJ Simpson again for the murder of his ex-wife and her boyfriend. The reason we cannot do that is because that would be an abuse of justice...like it or not he's been acquitted (found not guilty) and that is the final word. No more can be said. But a mistrial is different. Phil Spector has not been convicted of anything, and he has not been found not guilty of anything. The trial process itself fell apart, resulting in the jury being unable to come to a unanimous decision. The fact that that judge declares a mistrial means that, in a legal sense, he has never been tried on those charges because the trial could not be completed (ie there was no verdict, and that is what ends a trial). If the prosecution decides they want to, they can and will re-charge him with those crimes and he will stand trial again. Once you are given a verdict of "guilty" or "not guilty" then you are safe from being charged with the same crime again. But since no verdict was obtained here, he can be re-charged in the attempt to get one.


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Posted: 27 Sep 07, 13:34 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Here are a few links. I don't know how accurate or up-to-date the information is, but I think these seem to be good overviews.

Criminal Procedure in the United States:

http://www.answers.com/topic/criminal-procedure?cat=biz-fin

Nonunanimous Verdicts:

http://w3.uchastings.edu/plri/spr96tex/juryuna.html

Prosecution: Comparative Aspects - The Decision To Prosecute:

http://law.jrank.org/pages/1855/Prosecution-Comparative-Aspects-decision-prosecute.html


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Posted: 27 Sep 07, 15:55 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

YourValentine wrote:


This is what I find interesting in the article you posted, HistoryGirl:

"It’s possible the prosecutor will want to avoid another five-month trial and may try to get him to plead to a lesser charge. The issue there is that Phil Spector has made it very clear that he does not want to go to jail, and the D.A. is unlikely to accept any sort of deal that doesn’t include jail time."

I do not understand - if he killed the woman he should be convicted provided they can prove it. If he did NOT kill her why would anybody agree to such a deal? Is this about the truth at all? I see words like "game plan" used in this article but it's not a game, it's about a serious crime.


I was going to explain it, but then again, I don't exactly have a firm grasp over the concept:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plea_bargain


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Posted: 27 Sep 07, 20:48 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

HistoryGirl wrote:



As for doing the trial over again, they can because it's not double jeopardy. It is against the law in the US to have a case of double jeopardy, which is where you try someone twice for the same crime.


That's the key issue right there.

In this case, the jury tried to convict Spector on a first degree murder. Since it was a mistrial, it is a do-over, in effect.

Now, if the prosecution tries it again, and he is found not guilty, then they cannot do anything to him ever again for this crime due to Double Jeopardy. So they have to decide, either charge him with a lesser crime that potentially carries a lesser sentence (like Second Degree murder), try to plea bargain with him and avoid trial, or try the same exact thing again and risk losing.


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