Allen charge

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An Allen Charge (also known as a "Dynamite Charge") is a term used, usually within the U.S. Federal Court system, to describe the instructions given by a judge to a jury when, after deliberation, it is unable to reach on a verdict. [1]

The Allen charge dates back to the case of Allen Vs. United States in 1896. The courts ruled that a judge did have the right to strongly encourage deadlocked jurors to continue deliberations until a verdict is reached. Today, there are a number of variations on the original Allen charge text approved in 1896. Some of these modifications have been declared unconstitutional or prejudicial by appellate courts, so individual judges tend to use their own approved Allen charge. A judge cannot force or coerce a jury into reaching a verdict by mentioning the expenses of the trial, for example.

Because of its strong wording, courts have held that an Allen charge can only be delivered once during the deliberation phase.

An example of an Allen charge could read as follows: [2]

You have informed the Court of your inability to reach a verdict in this case.

At the outset, the Court wishes you to know that although you have a duty to reach a verdict, if that is not possible, the Court has neither the power nor the desire to compel agreement upon a verdict.
The purpose of these remarks is to point out to you the importance and the desirability of reaching a verdict in this case, provided, however, that you as individual jurors can do so without surrendering or sacrificing your conscientious scruples or personal convictions.
You will recall that upon assuming your duties in this case each of you took an oath. The oath places upon each of you as individuals the responsibility of arriving at a true verdict upon the basis of your opinion and not merely upon acquiescence in the conclusions of your fellow jurors. However, it by no means follows that opinions may not be changed by conference in the jury room. The very object of the jury system is to reach a verdict by a comparison of views and by consideration of the proofs with your fellow jurors.
During your deliberations you should be open-minded and consider the issues with proper deference to and respect for the opinions of each other and you should not hesitate to re-examine your own views in the light of such discussions.
You should consider also that this case must at some time be terminated; that you are selected in the same manner and from the same source from which any future jury must be selected; that there is no reason to suppose that the case will ever be submitted to twelve persons more intelligent, more impartial or more competent to decide it, or that more or clearer evidence will ever be produced on one side or the other.
You may retire now, taking as much time as is necessary for further deliberations upon the issues submitted to you for determination.

References

  1. http://www.lectlaw.com/def/a105.htm
  2. This instruction as modified was approved by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in State v. Blessing, 175 W.Va. 132, 133-134, 331 S.E. 2d 863, 865 (1985). This instruction was again approved, citing to State v. Blessing, Supra., by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in State v. Sloan, 177 W.Va. 585, 588
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