Hung Juries: An Empirical Look

Valerie Hans, University of Delaware
Martin C. Scherer, University of Delaware
Paula L. Hannaford, National Center for State Courts
Nicole L. Mott, National Center for State Courts
G. Thomas Munsterman, National Center for State Courts

Why juries are sometimes unable to reach a verdict is an issue along on anecdote and short on research. Hung juries are said to be the product of the jury's racial or class incompatibility or the conspiracy theories, hostility to police, irrationality, and religiosity of the holdout jurors. Yet, surprisngly, very little empirical data are available on the frequency and reasons for hung juries. The paper reports findings from the second stage of a National Institute of Justice-sponsored research project designed to examine the frequency and causes of hung juries in the USA. The paper analyzes juror questionnaire data, comparing juries who reached a verdict with those who were unable to reach a verdict. Compared to verdict jurors, hung jurors reported that the evidence was more difficult, that the evidence and skill of the attorneys were more evenly balanced between prosecution and defense, and that the crime victim elicited less sympathy. Hung jurors also had more concerns about the fairness of the law in the case. The results support some theories about why juries hang and refute others.

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Updated 05/20/2006