Hindman & Lanzon Hindman & Lanzon
Call for a Free Consultation
865-223-6450

thirteenth juror Archives

Accuracy of Thirteenth Juror Ruling is Not Reviewable

The concept of the "thirteenth juror" rule in Tennessee criminal law refers to the trial court judge's responsibility to consider the weight of the evidence from a criminal trial after the jury has returned a guilty verdict. If the judge then disagrees that the weight of the evidence supports that guilty verdict, the judge, as "thirteenth juror," must grant the defendant a new trial (with a different judge). This is actually just a unique and specialized role of the trial court judge and does not mean the judge is part of the jury. In addition, as noted in the recent case of State v. Stewart, M2014-00074-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 5-22-2015), the accuracy of the judge's decision as "thirteenth juror" is not reviewable on appeal (though statements in the record indicating the judge misconstrued the authority granted by the rule could result in appellate relief).

Court Clarifies Thirteenth Juror Review for Successor Judges

The 'thirteenth juror' role of a trial judge in Tennessee has garnered attention in the legal community in the aftermath of the 2011 resignation of a prominent Knoxville trial judge and the subsequent retrial of some high profile cases based upon interpretation of  thirteenth juror rule requirements. The rule in Tennessee simply requires that trial courts review the weight of the evidence in a criminal trial, as a juror would, and determine whether the court agrees with a guilty verdict. If the court does not agree, a new trial should be granted with a different trial judge (as a mistrial would be declared and new trial ordered if the jurors themselves could not agree). The rule is a safeguard to protect defendants in criminal cases against juror misconduct. But what happens when a successor judge must act as 'thirteenth juror' when he or she did not hear the trial? The Tennessee Court recently addressed the question in the case of State v. Justin Ellis, E2011-02017-SC-R11-CD (Tenn. 1-13-2015).

Court Clarifies Thirteenth Juror Review for Successor Judges

The 'thirteenth juror' role of a trial judge in Tennessee has garnered attention in the legal community in the aftermath of the 2011 resignation of a prominent Knoxville trial judge and the subsequent retrial of some high profile cases based upon interpretation of  thirteenth juror rule requirements. The rule in Tennessee simply requires that trial courts review the weight of the evidence in a criminal trial, as a juror would, and determine whether the court agrees with a guilty verdict. If the court does not agree, a new trial should be granted with a different trial judge (as a mistrial would be declared and new trial ordered if the jurors themselves could not agree). The rule is a safeguard to protect defendants in criminal cases against juror misconduct. But what happens when a successor judge must act as 'thirteenth juror' when he or she did not hear the trial? The Tennessee Court recently addressed the question in the case of State v. Justin Ellis, E2011-02017-SC-R11-CD (Tenn. 1-13-2015).

map map

Hindman & Lanzon
550 West Main Street
Suite 550
Knoxville, TN 37902

Toll Free: 866-383-1545
Phone: 865-223-6450
Fax: 865-521-6371
Knoxville Law Office Map