Yet again, confusion reigns in California

Oracle vs Google – Jury Deadlock? Partial verdict? Mistrial?

Chris Mayer
Deadlock

We reach the end of the week with the jury still mulling over their verdict, with speculation mounting that they are deadlocked. Google and Oracle offer solution, the situation gets murkier

Another day has passed without word from the courtroom in
California, the scene for Oracle’s lawsuit against Google over Java
APIs in Android. Judge Alsup has spoken -  “Hope
for the best, plan for the worst.”

Things took an interesting turn on Thursday, as a juror
asked how the jury should proceed if an unanimous
conclusion can’t be reached and one individual won’t change their
stance.

This would indeed indicate that the jury is split over
whether Google infringed Java copyright, although Judge Alsup was
quick to state that the note wasn’t from the foreperson,
and wasn’t an official statement that the jury was tied up. Even
so, this possibility of jurors unwilling to budge has been floated
by the judge, with several media outlets catching on. Judge Alsup
then excused the exhausted jury for the rest of Thursday, to return
the following day.

After three days of deliberation, this bombshell has
flustered the court, who are now contemplating what to do if the
jury do not return an unanimous verdict. There’s five
options:

  • Resubmit the issues for further deliberations
  • Ask the parties to forgo unanimity and go with a majority
    vote
  • Enter partial judgment
  • Declare a mistrial
  • Order a partial retrial to cover those issues not unanimously
    agreed upon

As ever there’s polarising opinions from each side –
Oracle are pressing to continue into the second part of the trial
and take the jury’s say as a partial verdict, whilst Google are
steadfast in wanting a complete verdict or it should be ruled as
mistrial.

“We do need to be careful about what we get,”
Google’s head laywer, Robert Van Nest exclaimed. “If the jury fails
to resolve an issue, the only correct result there is a mistrial on
that divisible question and move on to the patent
phase.”

If we were to proceed into the patent stage,
it would add an extra degree of uncertainity to this volatile and
fragile case. After mulling over each individual option and hearing
each side put forward their
argument,
 Judge Alsup responded soundly
with his arms folded, “I’m going to receive a partial verdict. I’m
not going to let this court go to waste.”

It may not be his final decision, but it looks increasingly
likely that to speed up an already sluggish period of inactivity
(at least for the lawyers), we may well come to a partial verdict.
Which leaves us in copyright purgatory, pretty much.

It’s all up a bit in the air, but we’ll bring the latest when it
happens. Hopefully.

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