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Complexities arise when charges stack up

Two women in another state were able to avoid spending the rest of their lives in prison when a jury could not come to a decision on nine of the 59 counts they were facing. Included in the charges were allegations of dissuading witnesses and conspiracy. They were, however, found guilty on the 50 other counts.

The jury was hung on nine charges, which means that the jurors are unable to agree on whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty and there is no reason to believe anyone will change their minds. The jury in this case could not reach a verdict on some of the most serious charges these women were facing. Because of this, the judge declared a mistrial on those counts, meaning they may or may not be retried in front of another jury. 

This report can serve as an important reminder of how complicated cases can be when a person is facing several counts and charges. It's not as easy as deciding that a person is guilty or not guilty; a judge or jury must make a decision on each count to determine if a person is guilty of that specific alleged crime.

When there are several counts, it is certainly possible for a person to be found guilty on some but not all the counts. This is why it can be crucial to take every charge that has been filed seriously and to also establish a defense that aims to minimize the potential for conviction on the most serious charges.

Juries in criminal cases must be unanimous to return a verdict. Even if all the jurors do not agree that a person is innocent, there only needs to be one person who believes that he or she is to avoid, if only temporarily, a guilty verdict. 

Source: Contra Costa Times, "Mistrial on most serious charges in Contra Costa conspiracy trial," Gary Peterson, Nov. 14, 2014

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