Com. v. Williams – Case Brief Summary (Pennsylvania)

In Com. v. Williams, 279 Pa. Super. 28, 420 A.2d 727 (1980), a jury, while deliberating, wrote on its verdict sheet that it had reached a verdict of acquittal on an attempted murder count, one of six counts before it.

In subsequent deliberations, it scratched out that entry. It later returned to the courtroom and informed the judge that it had reached a decision on a resisting arrest count but was hopelessly deadlocked on the remaining five counts.

The court accepted the partial verdict on that count. Upon seeing the verdict sheet, the judge asked why the decision on the attempted murder count was scratched out. The foreman responded that the jurors had reconsidered their prior decision to acquit and were now deadlocked on that count. A motion for mistrial was granted.

On appeal from a conviction in a retrial, the defendant argued that, under double jeopardy principles, he could not be retried for attempted murder.

The court held that the acquittal decision made in the jury room, and entered on the verdict sheet, and then erased, had been a tentative decision that was not a final verdict on that charge; therefore, retrial was not barred under double jeopardy principles. Cf. State v. Giblin, 589 S.W.2d 431, 433 (Tex. Crim. App. 1979) (holding that note from jury stating it had voted 12 to 0 for acquittal on one count and was hung on a second count was a report on the jury's progress in deliberating, not a final verdict).