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The Doctrine Of Manifest Necessity: Before Declaring A Mistrial, A Judge Must Consider All Circumstances


 criminal appeals lawyer, doctrine of manifest necessity, jury deliberations, mistrial

U.S v. Therve

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

764 F.3d 1293 2014

Decided on: August 20, 2014

Blog By: Stephen N. Preziosi Esq., Criminal Appeals Lawyer

Judge’s Piecemeal Disclosure Of Jury Was Not Improper

Issue: Whether the declaration of a mistrial was manifestly necessary when the District Court disclosed the contents of a note from the jury that stated they were split 11 to 1 in favor of Defendant and whether the disclosure influenced the parties discussion as to how to proceed.

Summary: Defendant was indicted for bribing an Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation officer. During deliberations, the jury sent a note to the Judge stating that they were undecided. The District Court gave an Allen charge to see if the jurors could reach a unanimous agreement. A second jury note was sent to the Judge stating that the jury was still undecided. The Judge told the parties that the note said they were split 11 to 1 in favor of Defendant. The judge determined that the jury was unable to agree unanimously and declared a mistrial.

During Defendant’s second trial, the jury found him guilty and he appealed. On Appeal, Defendant argues that the District Court failed to exercise sound discretion when it disclosed to the parties the numerical division of the jurors and how they voted. He argues that the disclosure manipulated the parties’ discussion about what course of action to take to resolve the issue of the deadlocked jury. The Court of Appeals affirmed stating that the District Court exercised sound discretion in its declaration of a mistrial.

See Also: Right To A Speedy “Re-Trial”: Calculating Speedy Trial Time On Remand From An Appellate Court

Holding: The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the District Court was within its discretion in declaring a mistrial based on the jury’s inability to agree on a unanimous decision. The Eleventh Circuit held that the jury’s numerical division has never been a factor that the Supreme Court of Courts of Appeals’ has indicated as an appropriate consideration for determining whether manifest necessity or a mistrial exists.

Facts: Defendant was indicted for bribing an Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation officer. During deliberations, the jury sent a note to the Judge stating that they could not reach a unanimous decision. The court gave an Allen charge, and the jury resumed its deliberations.

A second jury note was brought to the court’s attention stating that the jury was still undecided. The District Court revealed the numerical division of how they ruled: 11 not guilty, 1 guilty.

The Judge stated that he will not coerce any of the jurors to agree unanimously and called in the foreperson. The foreperson responded that the jury was never going to reach a unanimous decision and the District Court declared a mistrial.

During Defendant’s second trial, the jury found him guilty, and he appealed. On Appeal, Defendant argues that the District Court failed to exercise sound discretion when it disclosed to the parties the numerical division of the jurors and how they voted. He argues that the disclosure manipulated the parties’ discussion about what course of action to take to resolve the issue of the deadlocked jury. The Court of Appeals found that the trial judge exercised sound discretion in declaring a mistrial and affirmed.

Legal Analysis: The Court of Appeals held that they will review a mistrial order to determine whether it was manifestly necessary under all of the circumstances, United States v. Berroa, 374 F.3d 1053, 1056 11th Cir.2004. The Court held that the deference they give to the District Court’s declaration of a mistrial varies according to the circumstances, which include the basis for the order of a mistrial and the trial judge’s exercise of sound discretion in making the decision. Arizona v. Washington, 434 U.S. 497, 509-10 &fn. 28, 98 S.Ct. 824, 54 L.Ed.2d 717 1978.

To determine if a mistrial was manifestly necessary in a particular case, the Court of Appeals held that they will review the entire record in the case without limiting themselves to the actual findings of the trial court. United States v. Chica, 14 F.3d 1527, 1531 11th Cir.1994.

Under the manifest necessity doctrine, District Courts are permitted to declare a mistrial and discharge a jury where, taking all the circumstances into consideration, there is a manifest necessity for the act, or the ends of public justice would otherwise be defeated. United States v. Perez, 22 U.S. 9 Wheat. 579, 6 L.Ed 1824.

The Court of Appeals held that the justification for deferring to the trial court’s declaration of a mistrial in these circumstances is that the trial court is in the best position to access all the factors which must be considered in making a necessarily discretionary determination whether the jury will be able to reach a just verdict if it continues to deliberate. Without such deference, trial judges might otherwise employ coercive means to break the apparent deadlock, thereby creating a significant risk that a verdict may result from pressures inherent in the situation rather than the considered judgment of all the jurors. Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 774, 130 S.Ct. 1855, 176 L.Ed.2d 678 2010.

In this case, the Court of Appeals acknowledged that the trial Judge found himself in a difficult position when he received the jury’s second note that disclosed the jury’s numerical division. The jury’s first note indicated that it was hung, that the majority was one-sided, and that it did not appear the jury would reach a unanimous decision.

After the Allen charge and an additional period of deliberation, the jury returned with a second note stating that it had been 11 to 1 from the beginning, and no juror was changing his or her mind. The Court of Appeals held that they considered that the judge already had given an Allen charge without effect, again directing the jury to continue deliberations risked obtaining a verdict that was not the product of the considered judgment of all jurors.

Defendant argues that the judge manipulated the discussion by slowly disclosing the contents of the second jury note. The numerical count is not relevant to determine whether they should be sent back to deliberate.

The Court of Appeals held that the judge’s consultation with the parties is just one factor to consider in evaluating whether a mistrial ruling was sound, and even a failure to consult at all does not show that the Judge abused his discretion when the rest of the record is to the contrary.

The record in this case was clear that the jury was deadlocked and that further deliberations would not have proved helpful. The Court of Appeals held that they would prefer that in the future, judges refrain from announcing the details of splits volunteered by the jury, however, they cannot say that, in this case, the judge’s disclosure of the jury’s numerical and positional breakdown was improper. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals affirmed.


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