EvidenceProf Blog

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

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Allen Charge Project: Georgia

The key Georgia case on the Allen Charge seems to be Anderson v. State, 276 S.E.2d 603 (Ga. 1981).

In Anderson, Ulysses Anderson was convicted of possession of one-third of an ounce of marijuana with intent to distribute, in violation of the Georgia Controlled Substance Act. At the close of the evidence, after the jury had deliberated for three hours, "the trial court recalled them and inquired if they had reached a verdict. The foreman responded in the negative and stated that he had 'doubts' as to whether there was a 'reasonable possibility' that a verdict could be reached."

The judge then excused the jury until the next morning and later gave them the following instruction:

"All right, ladies and gentlemen, it is your duty as jurors to agree on a verdict in this case if you possibly can. The case has been fully and completely tried and you are just as competent as any jury would be in disposing of it. It is the duty of every juror to consult with every other juror and reach a mutual understanding in the case. The Court does not mean to say that a juror should give up an abiding conviction in the matter, but it is your duty to reconcile such differences, if any exist, and if it is possible to do so. I have not expressed and do not now express any opinion in this case; I do not tell you what your verdict should or should not be, that is a matter for you to determine. So, as reasonable people go to your jury room and reason together and make an effort to make a unanimous verdict you think speaks the truth."

After the jury later found Anderson guilty, he appealed, claiming that this Allen Charge was improper. The Supreme Court of Georgia disagreed, concluding that

Although use of the "Allen charge" has been the subject of much criticism in recent years,1 this court has consistently approved charges similar to the one given in this case....

Considering the "Allen charge" in this case as a whole, we conclude that it was not so extreme or improper as to deprive appellant of his right to a fair trial, nor did it, in any manner, suggest to the jury that the State's burden of proving each element of the crime had diminished.



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