Hanging by a Thread: Jury Trials Again

A Jury has been unable to reach a verdict over the alleged murder of a young mother whose body was wrapped in plastic and dumped in a creek north of Sydney.

On Thursday, NSW Supreme Court Justice Robertson Wright discharged the jury, who could not deliver a verdict on whether Justin Kent Dilosa (36), murdered the Danielle Easey with a knife and hammer. The same jury found Justin’s co-accused Carol Marie McHenry (35), guilty of the murder on Monday.

During a lengthy trial, the jury was informed that the victim had been brutally bashed on August 17, 2019. Her body had extensive scalp lacerations, skull depressions and stab wounds to her back.

The victim was allegedly concealed in a cupboard stashed in Justin’s van before she was dumped in a creek where she was discovered two weeks later.

Justin and Carol (the accused and co-accused), who were in an intense romantic relationship until August 2018, each pleaded not guilty and pointed the finger at each other for the killing.

The jury was told that Carol got into an argument with the victim who had items stolen from her son and boyfriend in her handbag.

While admitting that he helped cover up the murder by disposing the knife and hammer into a fire, Justin claimed that he did so as a result of physical threats made by Carol.

Carol’s sentence hearing has been scheduled for April 3, 2023.

What Exactly is a Hung Jury?

In NSW, A hung jury occurs when a jury is unable to reach a unanimous, or majority, verdict. This means that all, or a majority of the jury members are unable to find the defendant guilty, or not guilty.

Juries are made of 12 people selected at random from the electoral roll. In NSW there is a requirement for a unanimous jury of 12. This was amended in 2006 to allow for a majority verdict of 11 jurors in certain criminal trials. Given the need for a majority verdict of 11 jurors, where there is a case that are expected to last more than 3 months, a judge may choose to add more people to the jury, with a maximum of 3 additional jurors, to ensure there are enough jurors for the verdict to be made.

A hung jury can occur for many reasons, some of which include jury tampering, jury bias and inadequate jury instructions. A recent example of juror misconduct is in the trial of Bruce Lehrman where the jury was discharged after a juror was found to have brought a research paper on sexual assaults into the the deliberation room.

Judge alone trials can be used in NSW in order to avert some of these issues, but there are some restrictions to these types of trials. To read more about Judge alone trials, you may follow this link to our article:

What Happens Next?

If the jury is unable to reach a decision, then the Judge may decide to discharge the jury and declare a mistrial. This means that the case is unable to proceed to conclusion, and a retrial is the usual result.

If a re-trial is ordered, it will likely begin with an entirely new set of jurors. All evidence must be given again. The inconvenience, trauma for the victims and the costs involved for a new trial can evoke the prosecution to withdraw the charge instead.

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