Case Caption: Peter R. Najawicz v. People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S. Ct. Crim. No. 2012-0109Date: 03/15/2013Author: Hodge, Rhys S. Citation: Summary:

In a criminal trial where the defendant contended that the jury was hopelessly deadlocked after five and one-half days of deliberation, and that further instruction would be reversible error since a supplemental instruction in the nature of an Allen charge had already been given, the Superior Court did not abuse its discretion in declaring a mistrial. The test of manifest necessity in this context requires that a trial court make a sound decision, and close cases regarding the propriety of a mistrial are resolved in favor of the liberty of a citizen. Here the Superior Court was confronted with extraordinary and striking circumstances demonstrating a high degree of necessity that the trial come to a premature end, including sidebar conferences, non-unanimous verdict forms, a note from the jury foreman, the complexity of the charges, as well as the length of both the trial and deliberations. The Superior Court's action appears reasonable, and it cannot be concluded that it acted irrationally or irresponsibly, or upon reasons completely unrelated to trial problems, in finding that additional time for deliberations would not make a difference and that declaration of a mistrial was necessary due to the jury's inability to reach a unanimous verdict. The ultimate result reached by the Superior Court is affirmed based on this Court's consideration of the entire record and the totality of the circumstances, even if the Superior Court itself failed to do so. Thus there was no error in the later decision which denied the defendant's motion to dismiss the information on grounds that continued prosecution would violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion