When a trial ends, people are eager for a conclusion. They want to hear the verdict as soon as possible. But sometimes, the verdict can take hours or even days. We saw an example of this in the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell.
On December 29, 2021, the jury in Maxwell’s case entered their sixth day of jury deliberations.
What’s going on during jury deliberations — and why can it take so long?
The Details of the Ghislaine Maxwell Case
Maxwell is the former girlfriend and longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein. She was on trial facing six federal counts which include: sex trafficking of a minor, enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and three related counts of conspiracy, as reported by CNN.
This trial was a high-stakes case. Not only was it a high-profile case, which can add pressure to the jury, but it could also lead to long-term jail time. If Maxwell was convicted on all six charges, she could face up to 70 years in prison.
It took the jury six days of deliberations to reach their verdict.
What Happens in Jury Deliberations?
Jury deliberations begin after the closing arguments of a trial. The judge gives detailed instructions about the process to the jury and lays out the legal standards that must be met for the defendant to be found guilty. From there, the jury goes to a room alone to discuss their decision for the verdict.
In most states, a foreperson or presiding juror is assigned to the group. The foreperson is responsible for managing the process, making sure everyone on the jury gets to participate, and leading the discussion in an orderly fashion.
Often, the jury begins with an initial vote. Each person says if they are leaning toward guilty or not guilty on each count. This process gives the jury an idea of where they stand.
Next, the jury reviews the evidence and how it relates to the specifics of the law. They are looking to see if prosecutors successfully met the burden of proof in the case. The jury must be certain that the proof shows the defendant is guilty without reasonable doubt.
How Does a Jury Deliberation End?
Even if the jury initially agrees on a verdict, they will typically go through the evidence and each count to confirm that their verdict is accurate.
If the jury is in disagreement, they must go through the evidence and each count together to come to an agreement on a verdict. In most states, for jury deliberations to end in a criminal case, there must be a unanimous agreement on each charge. Every juror must agree on the verdict for each charge.
What Holds Up Deliberations?
Jury deliberations can get held up when jurors can’t agree on a verdict or they have additional questions and concerns about the case.
During deliberations, the jury is permitted to ask for additional information, explanations, and documents and transcripts from the trial. They may also ask for more detailed legal instructions on how the deliberation process works. Any communication between the judge and the jury is shared with attorneys on both sides, and jury members are also not allowed to access outside information.
In Maxwell’s case, the jury asked for a legal definition of “enticement.” They also asked to review the testimony of four women who took the stand during the trial and transcripts from four other witnesses.
It appears that the jury was looking more closely at the evidence as they sought to find a verdict they could all agree on.
What If the Jury Can’t Agree?
If the jury can’t reach a decision in one day, they may be sequestered. In this case, they cannot go back to their homes as they may be influenced by the media or other people. The jury typically stays in a hotel so they cannot use the internet or talk about the case with people outside of the jury.
In Maxwell’s case, the jury was not sequestered. They were allowed to go home, and they were given extra days between deliberations due to the Christmas holiday.
If a jury cannot come to a unanimous decision, it is called a “hung jury.” There is a mistrial, and the case must be conducted again in front of a new jury. In the event of a hung jury, the government may decide not to retry the case, and the defendant can walk free.
On Tuesday, December 28, the jury sent a note to the judge saying, “Our deliberations are moving along, and we are making progress.” On Wednesday, December 29, the jury came forward with their decision.
Maxwell was found guilty on five of the six charges, and she now faces up to 65 years in prison.
Get Strong Counsel for a Criminal Trial
A criminal trial can be a stressful situation from the opening statement to the hours or days waiting for a verdict. If you find yourself facing criminal charges, make sure you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side to lead you through the process and to the best possible outcome.
If you are in need of legal advice, contact the office of TJ Grimaldi today. Talk directly with TJ about your case. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023 today