EvidenceProf Blog

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Allen Charge Project: Florida

They key Florida case on the Allen Charge is State v. Bryan, 290 So.2d 482 (Fla. 1999).

In Bryan, William Bryan was charged with second degree murder, and testimony regarding some of the critical events occurring at the time of the homicide was directly contradictory.

After the jury had deliberated for some five and one-half hours, the court caused them to be returned to see if they were close to reaching a verdict. Upon learning that they were not, the judge delivered an ‘Allen charge,‘ urging the minority jurors carefully to reconsider their position to see if they could conscientiously agree with that of the majority of the jury; this was a ‘balanced’ charge, and did not per se benefit either side nor urge any juror to abandon his position and merely accept the will of the majority. The jury then retired to deliberate further. After an additional half hour of deliberation, they were again returned to the court, and were asked whether they were closer to reaching a verdict. It was indicated that they were closer to reaching a verdict, and the trial judge allowed them an additional twenty minutes to deliberate. After an additional seventeen minutes of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict finding respondent guilty of manslaughter, a lesser included offense.

In rejecting Bryan's ensuing appeal, the Supreme Court of Florida noted that the Allen Charge had been approved by the Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit. The following version of the Allen Charge is now Florida Standard Jury Instruction (Criminal) 4.1:

I know that all of you have worked hard to try to find a verdict in this case. It apparently has been impossible for you so far. Sometimes an early vote before discussion can make it hard to reach an agreement about the case later. The vote, not the discussion, might make it hard to see all sides of the case.

We are all aware that it is legally permissible for a jury to disagree. There are two things a jury can lawfully do: agree on a verdict or disagree on what the facts of the case may truly be.

There is nothing to disagree about on the law. The law is as I told you. If you have any disagreements about the law, I should clear them for you now. That should be my problem, not yours.

If you disagree over what you believe the evidence showed, then only you can resolve that conflict, if it is to be resolved.

I have only one request of you. By law, I cannot demand this of you, but I want you to go back into the jury room. Then, taking turns, tell each of the other jurors about any weakness of your own position. You should not interrupt each other or comment on each other's views until each of you has had a chance to talk. After you have done that, if you simply cannot reach a verdict, then return to the courtroom and I will declare this case mistried, and will discharge you with my sincere appreciation for your services.

You may now retire to continue with your deliberations.



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I'm not a huge fan of Allen charges, but I must say this one is the most reasoned and fair I've heard. With a couple minor tweaks I might even be convinced to support its use--especially if the last part were expanded on having every person admit the weaknesses of own position.

Posted by: Paul | Dec 25, 2016 2:01:23 PM

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