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Hung Juries and Aborted Trials: An Analysis of Their Prevalence, Predictors and Effects

NCJ Number
Joanne Baker; Adrian Allen; Don Weatherburn
Date Published
March 2002
19 pages
This document discusses hung juries and the demands placed on the New South Wales (NSW) District Court as a result, as well as factors that predict whether a jury will be hung or a trial will be aborted.
In recent years hung and aborted trials have provoked a great deal of concern in NSW, leading to calls for reform in this area. The available research suggest that hung trials may be a product of case, evidentiary, and jurisdictional factors, rather than being a function of the jury. Research on aborted trials and why they occur is sparse. Data for this study were obtained from the monthly reporting statistics of the NSW District Court, and a retrospective survey of court files. Only trials heard in the 3-year period between July 1, 1997 and June 30, 2000, were included. Results show that each year in the NSW District Court about 16 percent of criminal trials failed to reach a conclusion either because the jury was unable to reach a verdict or because the judge aborted the trial. Both kinds of occurrence appeared more prevalent in the NSW District Court than in intermediate courts in other States. In 1999, hung juries resulted in wastage of 176 court days of court time while aborted trials resulted in wastage of about 238 days. Juries were more likely to be hung if the trial in question was held in the Sydney Registry or another metropolitan registry, if it was long, or if no adjournment was sought before the trial. Trials were more likely to be aborted if they were held in Sydney, or if they involved multiple offense counts; if the charges were for sex, violence-related, or fraud offenses; if there were multiple accused; if there was a voir dire; if it was a jury (rather than judge alone) trial; or if no bench warrant had been issued. 4 figures, 4 tables, 12 notes, 35 references, 2 appendices