When Can You Get a New Trial?
The notorious "Hiccup Girl" -- who made headlines years ago for her inability to stop hiccuping and recently re-entered the spotlight after being convicted of first-degree murder -- is requesting a new trial.
After making it all the way through trial, defendants can seek new trials. Getting a new trial isn't easy, but it is possible under certain circumstances.
Here are five situations which have warranted new trials:
- Juror misconduct. If juror misconduct is discovered before the jury deliberates, a judge can dismiss the misbehaving jurors and call up alternates to serve instead. But if jury deliberations are already underway, a judge may order a new trial with a new jury. That's what happened when a suspended lawyer in New York lied to get on a jury in a tax fraud case.
- Newly discovered evidence. A new trial may be granted when new, important evidence is discovered -- but it must be discovered after the trial (meaning, it wasn't reasonably possible to discover it before or during trial); it must also be so pivotal that it could potentially cause a jury to reach a different verdict. The "Hiccup Girl's" attorney, for example, is requesting a new trial because he claims there's newly discovered evidence about a key witness that could have made a material difference in the outcome of her case, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
- Significant legal error. A new trial may be granted if legal error -- such as faulty juror forms, wrongly excluded evidence, or bad jury instructions -- affected the trial's outcome. In the "Hiccup Girl's" case, her attorney is claiming the judge erred in matters of jury instructions.
- Exculpatory evidence held by prosecutors. A defendant is constitutionally entitled to a new trial when the case is prejudiced because the state suppressed evidence (even inadvertently) that is favorable to the defendant (i.e., exculpatory or impeachment evidence).
- Other injustices. In addition to the situations above, a judge may grant a new trial to remedy an injustice related to the first trial. For example, one appeals court reversed a lower court's denial of a motion for a new trial because of a sequestration violation in which two witnesses were caught talking to each other.
If you think a mistake in your case should warrant a new trial, make sure to bring it to your criminal defense lawyer's attention as soon as possible. To learn more about other post-trial remedies, check out FindLaw's sections on Criminal Appeals and Criminal Rights.