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Deadlocked Jury — Consideration of the Lessor Charge

October 25, 2011

Fred Thiagarajah

As one of the primary criminal defense attorneys in the John Chamberlain homicide trial, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience first-hand a wide variety of criminal procedures.  Jurors on the Chamberlain homicide were deadlocked yesterday on first degree murder, after nine full days of deliberations.  At this point, the judge could have declared a mistrial, which is what normally happens when there is a hung jury.  If the judge had declared a mistrial, the case would have been reset for a pretrial conference and ultimately a new trial — unless the DA made a plea-bargain.

However, what actually happened is that the court took first-degree murder off the table and sent the jurors back to deliberate about second degree murder, or any of its lessor charges.  This maneuver of taking the greater charge off the table and sending the jurors back to deliberate about the lessor charge(s) can only be done with the at the request of the DA.  When this happens, jeopardy attaches.

That means the greater charge is forever removed.  In this case, that means if the jury now hangs on second degree murder and the DA wants to retry the case, they cannot charge first degree murder anymore.  For more information on what is going on in the Chamberlain murder case, check out either the OC Register Article or the OC Weekly Article.


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