Stuck in Ohio's Legal Limbo, How Many Mistrials are Too Many Mistrials?: Exploring New Factors That Help a Trial Judge in Ohio Know Whether to Exercise Her Authority to Dismiss an Indictment with Prejudice, Especially Following Repeated Hung Juries
Multiple mistrials following validly-prosecuted trials are becoming an increasingly harsh reality in today’s criminal justice system. Currently, the Ohio Supreme Court has not provided any guidelines to help its trial judges know when to make the crucial decision to dismiss an indictment with prejudice following a string of properly-declared mistrials, especially due to repeated hung juries. Despite multiple mistrials that continue to result in no conviction, criminal defendants often languish behind bars, suffering detrimental psychological harm and a loss of personal freedom as they remain in “legal limbo” waiting to retry their case. Furthermore, continuously retrying defendants cuts against fundamental fairness and substantial justice highlighted in the “Ohio Due Course of Law” clause.
This Note argues that Ohio trial judges need to apply a list of factors to avoid allegations of misconduct, to breathe life back into the defendant’s presumed innocence until proven guilty, and to guarantee prompt administration of justice. These factors include: (1) the number of prior mistrials and the circumstances of the jury deliberation therein, so far as is known; (2) the character of prior trials in terms of length, complexity, and similarity of evidence presented; (3) the likelihood of any substantial difference in a subsequent trial, if allowed; (4) whether the defendant is or has been incarcerated awaiting trial, and the length of such incarceration; (5) the severity of the offense charged; (6) the professional conduct and diligence of respective counsel, particularly that of the prosecuting attorney; and (7) the trial court’s own evaluation of the relative case strength. Weighing these factors will promote stability, uniformity, and predictability among courts. Implementing factors will also help ensure that defendants are not pushed into taking unfair plea deals; it will aid appellate courts reviewing trial judges’ decisions whether or not to dismiss. Also, it will give legitimacy to the trial judges’ decisions. Overall, these factors will explore a fair balance between the prosecution’s right to seek a conviction and the rights of the accused, the victim, and the community at large.
Samantha M. Cira,
Stuck in Ohio's Legal Limbo, How Many Mistrials are Too Many Mistrials?: Exploring New Factors That Help a Trial Judge in Ohio Know Whether to Exercise Her Authority to Dismiss an Indictment with Prejudice, Especially Following Repeated Hung Juries,
66 Clev. St. L. Rev.
available at https://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/clevstlrev/vol66/iss1/9