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Deadlocked: Notable Hung Juries

As the crowds disperse from Greensboro, N.C., the nation waits to see if the U.S. Justice Department will recede with scorn.

After nearly two weeks of deliberations, the “BREAKING NEWS” buzzers were going off like crazy Thursday afternoon as it was reported that the verdict in the John Edwards trial had been reached. The former presidential hopeful, D-NC Senator, and successful attorney was charged with six counts relating to receiving campaign funds in excess of the legal limit.

However, most of the attention given to this trial has been focused on the “misuse” of this money, not the amounts that he actually received. Allegedly, the money was used to cover up his extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter, which occurred while Edwards’ was campaigning as a presidential candidate nominee and while his wife was battling breast cancer.

The problem with this case was that the statute Edwards was charged with violating is unclear. Two private persons, Bunny Mellon and Fred Baron, provided the money at issue and it seems indeterminable whether that money was supposed to be a campaign donation or to be used to cover up his affair. Nonetheless, Johnny insisted that he had not done anything illegal because he did not know about the money.

Because of the focus of the trial, or lack thereof, it wasn’t surprising that the jury was taking a long time to reach a decision. Following the verdict announcement, the world flipped on their TVs and overused the refresh button on Twitter (the top three worldwide Twitter trends for part of the afternoon were “John Edwards”, “Count 3”, and “Bunny Mellon”). Much to everyone’s disappointment, the jury reported that they had only reached a unanimous verdict on one count, and were hung on the other five. The judge sent them back to their chamber on an Allen charge, despite the defense attorneys’ encouragement to declare a mistrial. Not much later, the jury again declared themselves deadlocked on five of the six counts, and found Edwards not guilty of the only count on which they could unanimously vote. Finally, the judge declared a mistrial.

CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin stated on live television, "This is a mess. This is not how a trial is supposed to end ... I assure you that the legal term for this is 'a mess.' Juries are supposed to resolve an entire case."

It’s safe to say the world agrees in frustration. While we endure more waiting to learn John Edwards’ fate, here’s a look at other famous deadlocked juries:

  1. January 1990, New York - After nine weeks of deliberating, jurors reached verdicts on 52 counts of molestation of children, but were deadlocked on the remaining 13 charges in the nation's longest criminal trial. The jurors were deciding 65 counts against Raymond Buckey, 31 years old, and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, 63. All the charges involve allegations of molesting children at the nursery school the family owned in Manhattan Beach. The jury spent 2 1/2 years hearing evidence in the case. After six years of trials, charges were dropped in 1990.
  2. August 1992, Los Angeles, CA - Orange County's longest-running criminal case failed to come to a conclusion when a Superior Court jury deadlocked over whether to send a convicted triple-murderer to the gas chamber. Jurors later disclosed that they were split 7-5 in favor of recommending a death sentence for Daniel Duffy. The former motorcycle gang member was charged with the 1980 Memorial Day triple slaying in Westminster. A week after the jury deadlocked, efforts to sentence Duffy to the death penalty were dropped.
  3. September 2007, Los Angeles, CA - Record producer Phil Spector’s five month trial halted when the jury reported after twelve days of deliberation, they were deadlocked at 10-2, majority finding the celebrity guilty. Spector allegedly fired a handgun into the mouth of actress/hostess Lana Clarkson in his castle. The theory presented by the defense was that Clarkson had committed suicide, and the prosecutors presented testimony that Spector had a history with pulling guns on females and even told his chauffeur after the incident, “I think I killed somebody.” In 2009, he was convicted of second-degree murder and is serving a prison sentence of 19 years to life.
  4. August 2010, Illinois - A jury was hung on most accounts against both Blagojevich brothers. Prosecutors ended up dropping charges against Robert Blagojevich, who ran fundraising for younger brother Rod’s gubernatorial campaign fund for the last four months of 2008. During this period, prosecutors used wiretaps to secretly record the former Illinois governor as he allegedly tried to sell his power to pick a successor for President Barack Obama as U.S. senator. The jury was split 9-3 in favor of acquitting the elder Robert Blagojevich.
  5. August 2010, Illinois - Ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich was found guilty on only one count, as the jury deadlocked at 11-1 on three key counts related to the Senate seat -- conspiracy to commit extortion, attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit bribery -- and also could not reach a verdict on the remaining 20 counts including racketeering, bribery, and conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. After ten days of deliberation in the second trial, the jury found Blagojevich guilty of 11 counts related to the senate seat and 6 counts related to fundraising extortion of a hospital executive. Blagojevich was eventually sentenced to 14 years in prison, which he began in March 2012.
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