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What are the grounds for a mistrial?

The defense has tried and failed numerous times throughout the case to call for a mistrial.

ATLANTA — The death of Ahmaud Arbery trial will potentially wrap up soon, with closing arguments beginning Monday.

On Friday, the defense attempted to bring the case to a mistrial, with attorney Kevin Gough arguing the trial had been "infected" by the influence of a "woke left mob." However, the judge quickly denied the motion.

It's not the first time in the trial that the defense has pulled such a move, with Gough repeatedly alleging jury intimidation or influence on the proceedings by outside actors.  Early on in the trial, Gough made a comment about not wanting "any more Black pastors coming in here" at the court, after Rev. Al Sharpton had sat with Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones in the gallery. The comment would later inspire Black faith leaders to gather by the hundreds in Brunswick in support of the Arbery family.

The defense's numerous motions for a mistrial have been repeatedly denied, leaving many non-legal experts to wonder...what exactly is one? And what legally constitutes a mistrial?

According to Cornell University, a mistrial occurs when one of two main situations happen:

  1. The jury is unable to reach a verdict and there has to be either a new trial or a new jury altogether. ~ We'll come back to this point later.
  2. There is a serious procedural error or misconduct that could result in an unfair trial.

In the case of this trial, the defense attempted numerous times to suggest that second point, most notably with the comments over "Black pastors." However, that requests had little sway over the judge, who stated the jury was vetted through the court and shouldn’t be influenced by certain community members sitting with the Arbery family. 

On Friday, when a mistrial was again requested, the judge added "I think the court's position has been accurately stated previously." At this stage, the defense hasn't made a convincing case for a mistrial under those grounds. However, that doesn't mean one is impossible.

After the closing arguments, the jury will need to be unanimous in their decision in order for a verdict to be rendered. If the jury cannot reach a verdict, they may be sequestered until a verdict is eventually reached. If that fails, a mistrial can be called. 

And what if that happens?

A mistrial will generally lead to either a plea bargain, dismissal of charges, or the defendant(s) could possibly be tried on the same charges in a new trial.

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