Saturday, February 5, 2011

Somebody Should Reconsider Their Thinking

The "Allen charge" is given by judges all over this country to juries that are deadlocked on a decision. Black's Law Dictionary defines the Allen Charge this way:

Allen charge [a-lən-] n
[from the Supreme Court case Allen v. United States, 164 U.S. 492 (1896), which upheld the right of a trial judge to make such a charge]
: a charge to a deadlocked jury to make a further effort to reach a verdict esp. by each juror considering the others' opinions with deference called also dynamite charge

Usually a jury deadlocks in such a way that a verdict cannot be rendered. The numbers, however, are not a simple majority. For example, in Arkansas, the jury must reach a unanimous verdict in a criminal case with a twelve person jury. In a civil case at least nine of the twelve jurors must agree on the verdict.

As you can probably tell, in the jury system a few as one, two, three or four people can prevent a decision from being made. The Allen Charge is directed, most generally, to those persons in the minority and it says basically, you are in the minority (numerically speaking) and all of these others see things differently than you do so you ought to reconsider your thinking. In other words, if all of these people are seeing things one way and you do not, perhaps it is your thinking that is the problem.

Many times the Allen Charge results in a verdict. Sometimes, the stalemate continues. Just recently in Marianna, Arkansas a jury deadlocked on a rape case. From newspaper reports, the case was open and shut. This was the case where the rape kit lead to the discovery of the alleged killer of the news reporter over in Little Rock. The evidence from Marianna was connected to the case in Little Rock through DNA testing. The Little Rock case resulted in a guilty verdict for the defendant.

The city council for the City of Helena-West Helena has been voting 6-4 on the passage of a yearly budget. First, let it be said, that six votes are sufficient to pass a budget. Second, let it also be said, that the opposition to the budget has not spoken any good reason for opposition to the budget. Yet, if someone is to be charged with re-thinking their position, the American Rule is that the minority be directed to rethink its position. The four persons in the minority should rethink their positions and consider accepting what has already been compromised. Additionally, they should, if they are serious about moving the legislation forward, state, with specificity, the reasons for their opposition to the current budgets.

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