Massachusetts criminal jury trials in the district court are determined by a jury of six people. Most Massachusetts Judges will impanel at least one alternate juror. Some judges may impanel 2 alternate jurors in situations where the judge feels it is appropriate. In situations where bad weather is forecasted, the district court judge may impanel more than one alternate juror to ensure the case will continue on the next day.
Regardless of the amount of alternate jurors in a district court case only 6 jurors will decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the charges. The juror’s decisions must be unanimous. This means that all six jurors must agree that the defendant is guilty or all six jurors must decide the defendant is not guilty. If the jurors cannot come to a unanimous decision or is deadlocked, the court will usually advise them to continue working. If after several hours or days the jurors remain deadlocked the court may order a mistrial and send all the jurors home.
If a case ends with a mistrial due to a jury being deadlocked it does not mean that the case will go away. The prosecution can decide to try the case again in front of a new jury. The parties may also agree to resolve the case and have the defendant plead out to the charges. Finally, unlikely as it may be, the prosecution can also dismiss the case.
The district court judge will usually not pick or reveal who the alternate juror is until it is time for the jury to deliberate. The alternate juror is usually picked at random by the judge’s clerk. The alternate juror must remain for the duration of the jury deliberations. The alternate juror cannot participate in the jury deliberation process unless there is a need to replace one of the deliberating jurors. Massachusetts superior court jury trials are determined by a jury of 12 people. Most Massachusetts superior court judges will impanel at least 14 people.
If you have questions contact Attorney Jason Chan at 508-808-8902.