What Happens If There Is a Hung Jury in the Karen Read Trial? Legal Implications and Next Steps

Karen Read trial, hung jury, mistrial, Judge Beverly Cannone, Norfolk Superior Court, legal implications, jury deliberation, murder trial, manslaughter charges, John O’Keefe, Boston Police Officer, Tuey-Rodriguez instruction, dynamite charge, legal analysis, criminal justice

Explore the potential outcomes and legal implications if there is a hung jury in the Karen Read trial. Learn about the steps Judge Beverly Cannone might take, the possible declaration of a mistrial, and the challenging decisions prosecutors face in high-profile cases.

What Happens If There Is a Hung Jury in the Karen Read Trial? Legal Implications and Next Steps
What Happens If There Is a Hung Jury in the Karen Read Trial? Legal Implications and Next Steps

What Happens If There Is a Hung Jury in the Karen Read Trial?

DEDHAM — In the complex and high-profile Karen Read trial, the possibility of a hung jury looms large. Jurors in the case have already indicated difficulty in reaching a unanimous verdict, raising questions about what comes next. If the jury remains deadlocked, Judge Beverly Cannone may declare a mistrial, leading to significant decisions for prosecutors and defense attorneys alike.

The Context of the Karen Read Trial

Karen Read faces serious charges, including murder and manslaughter, for allegedly hitting her boyfriend, Boston Police Officer John O’Keefe, with her car after a night of heavy drinking and leaving him to die in the cold. The trial has captivated the public, with intense media coverage and a community deeply divided over the case.

After a two-month trial, jurors began deliberating but soon indicated they were struggling to reach a consensus. On the fourth day of deliberations, the 12-member Norfolk Superior Court jury sent a note to Judge Cannone, stating they were unable to come to a unanimous decision.

The Jury’s Dilemma

The jury’s note read: “I am writing to inform you on behalf of the jury that despite our exhaustive review of the evidence, and our diligent consideration of all disputed evidence, we have been unable to reach a unanimous verdict.” This note highlighted the challenges the jurors faced in resolving the case, despite their best efforts.

Prosecutors, led by Norfolk prosecutor Adam Lally, argued that the jury needed more time, pointing out that deliberations had only begun a few days earlier. Defense attorney David Yannetti, however, suggested that the jury had reached an impasse and urged the judge to take steps toward declaring a mistrial.

Judge Cannone, recognizing the complexity and length of the trial, instructed the jury to continue deliberating. She expressed her appreciation for their hard work and sent them home for the weekend, with plans to resume deliberations on Monday.

The Legal Implications of a Hung Jury

If the jury remains deadlocked, Judge Cannone may consider issuing a Tuey-Rodriguez instruction, also known as the “dynamite charge.” This instruction encourages jurors to reconsider their positions and strive for a unanimous verdict. The standard language of the instruction emphasizes the importance of reaching a decision, if possible, and acknowledges the difficulties faced in such a complex case.

Christopher Dearborn, a Suffolk Law professor and defense attorney, explained that the Tuey-Rodriguez instruction is intended to inspire jurors to overcome their differences. However, it is up to the judge’s discretion when and if to deliver this instruction.

Potential Outcomes of a Hung Jury

Should the jury still be unable to reach a verdict after the Tuey-Rodriguez instruction, Judge Cannone could declare a mistrial. This scenario occurred last year in the case of Emanuel Lopes, who was charged with murdering Weymouth Police Sergeant Michael Chesna and Vera Adams. After two weeks of deliberation without a consensus on Lopes’ mental state, Cannone declared a mistrial.

In Lopes’ case, a second trial was held, and the jury again struggled but ultimately reached a guilty verdict on two counts of murder after further deliberation. This example underscores the challenges and uncertainties of retrials following a mistrial.

The Prosecution’s Decision

If a mistrial is declared in the Karen Read case, prosecutors will face a critical decision: whether to retry the case. Elizabeth K. Keeley, a former prosecutor now with the Butters Brazilian law firm, highlighted the strategic considerations involved. Prosecutors must assess the likelihood of a different outcome in a new trial and weigh the resources required for another lengthy legal battle.

In some cases, prosecutors may decide not to proceed with a retrial if they believe the evidence is unlikely to yield a conviction. Alternatively, they may pursue a retrial if they believe that a different jury could reach a unanimous verdict.

The Stress on All Parties

A hung jury and subsequent mistrial are stressful for all parties involved. Larry Tipton, a veteran Boston-area defense lawyer, noted the emotional toll on defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges, and jurors. He recounted his experience in a Boston murder case that resulted in three mistrials, emphasizing the pressure and frustration felt by everyone in the courtroom.

Jurors, in particular, may feel a sense of failure or guilt for not reaching a verdict. This emotional burden can be significant, especially in high-stakes cases like the Karen Read trial.

The Community’s Reaction

The Karen Read trial has deeply divided the Canton community. Emotions run high as residents await the jury’s decision. Regardless of the outcome, the trial’s conclusion will leave a lasting impact on those involved and the community at large.

A hung jury and mistrial would prolong the uncertainty and tension, as the possibility of a retrial would keep the case in the public eye. Conversely, a verdict, whether guilty or not guilty, would provide a sense of resolution, albeit not necessarily satisfaction for all parties.


The potential for a hung jury in the Karen Read trial highlights the complexities and challenges of the legal system. As jurors continue their deliberations, the judge, attorneys, and community await the outcome with bated breath. Whether the case ends in a verdict or a mistrial, the ramifications will be felt by all involved.

Judge Cannone’s decision on whether to declare a mistrial will be crucial. If she does, prosecutors must decide whether to retry the case, weighing the likelihood of a different outcome against the resources required. The defense will prepare for the possibility of another trial, while jurors and the community grapple with the ongoing uncertainty.

In the end, the Karen Read trial serves as a poignant reminder of the complexities of the justice system and the human element at its core. The jury’s struggle to reach a unanimous decision reflects the broader challenges of finding truth and justice in a world where the answers are rarely clear-cut.

Read More

Leave a Comment