EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Allen Charge Project: Arkansas

In Arkansas, judges are clearly allowed to give the Allen Charge. The most recent Supreme Court of Arkansas opinion on the issue is Walker v. State, 637 S.W.2d 528 (Ark. 1982).

In Walker, James Walker was charged with felony escape. The jury was given the case on the afternoon of October 19, 1981, but had still not reached a verdict after approximately four hours of deliberation, with the foreman indicating that they were split 9-3. According to the court,

The court then gave the jury an instruction commonly known as the “Allen charge” which is essentially set out in AMCI 6004. In giving the instruction the court added the sentence emphasized below to the AMCI version: 

It is to the interest of the State of Arkansas and of the defendant(s) for you to reach an agreement in this case, if at all possible. A hung jury means a continuation of the case and a delay in the administration of justice. And it also means additional expense on the taxpayers.

You should consider that this case will have to be decided by some jury and, in all probability, upon the same testimony and evidence. It is unlikely that the case will ever be submitted to 12 people more intelligent, more impartial, or more competent to decide it....

The instruction then goes on to tell the jury that they should weigh and discuss the evidence and make every reasonable effort to harmonize individual views on the merits of the case. It also states that no juror should surrender his sincere convictions to reach a verdict and that the verdict should be the result of each juror's free and voluntary opinion, but that every sincere effort should be made to reach a proper verdict.

The next morning, the jury returned a guilty verdict. In rejecting Walker's appeal over the Allen charge, the Supreme Court of Arkansas found that

In regard to instructing the jury on extraneous matter we held in Evans v. State, 252 Ark. 335, 478 S.W.2d 874 (1972) that:

An admonition to the jury as to its duty to return a verdict, without any expression of the court's opinion as to the weight of the evidence, or any change in instructions previously given, or suggestion that any juror yield his individual convictions to reach a verdict is not improper.

In Graham v. State, 202 Ark. 981, 154 S.W.2d 584 (1941) this Court committed to the general rule that the trial court may detail to the jury the ills attendant upon a disagreement, including the expense.



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