Can A Judge Give A Jury Instruction To Try To Force A Jury To Make A Decision?
Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.
State v. Boyd, 206 Kan. 597 (1971).
This case addresses the following issue:
- Can coercive jury instructions be given?
- If so, can they be given after the jury has retired for deliberation?
- If the defendant consented to the coercive instruction at trial, may the defendant raise the issue on appeal?
The pertinent issue presented in this case included whether the trial court erred by submitting Allen instructions after the jury had retired to deliberate. Allen v. United States, 164 U.S. 492 (1986). The practice of submitting a forcing type instruction after the jury had reported its failure to agree on a verdict is not commended and may lead to prejudicial error. 206 Kan. at 601. If a coercive instruction is to be given, however, trial courts are advised to submit the instruction before the jury retires, not afterward. Id.
The trial court gave the Allen type instructions the morning after the jury had retired to deliberate. Id. at 600. The instructions mirrored the instructions that were given in State v. Oswald, 197 Kan. 251 (1966), and will be provided at the end of this summary. 206 Kan. at 600. This Court noted that they have previously addressed this issue and have consistently criticized the giving of coercive charges of this character after the jury has received the case for its determination. Id. at 600-01. However, the Court stated that it is important to point out the fact that, in this case, the defendant expressed satisfaction with the instruction, waived any objections thereto and consented to the instruction being given. Id. at 601. Due to this fact, the Court did not need to look further into the details that surrounded the giving of the instruction to determine if it resulted in prejudicial error. The Court thus concluded that the defendant could not claim prejudicial error because he consented to the instruction. Id.
“’This case has been tried by both sides, and at considerable expense, and both sides have submitted for your consideration all of the evidence that they have with respect to the issues involved therein, and the matter has been submitted to you for decision and verdict. Although under the law a verdict must be unanimous, and should be based upon your honest judgment, not mere acquiescence for the sake of expediency, it is still necessary that you examine the matters submitted to you with the proper regard for, and deference to, the opinions of each other. There is no reason to believe that a jury better qualified than you would hereafter be chosen to try this case. There is no reason to believe that any subsequent jury would be in any better position to decide the issues of fact which have been submitted to you. Therefore, each of you should listen to the arguments of the other with an open mindedness characteristic of a disposition to be convinced by them; and if you differ in your views of the evidence, you should all be led by such difference of opinion to scrutinize the evidence more closely and to re-examine more carefully the grounds of your opinion.’
‘Above all, it is the duty of the jury to keep in mind that the jury room is no place for espousing and maintaining, in the spirit of controversy, either side of a cause. The end that the jury must keep in view is the truth as it appears from the evidence submitted to it, which must be considered with the instructions of the Court.’
‘The jury will continue with its deliberations in the spirit of fairness and candor and try to arrive at a verdict.’” State v. Oswald, 197 Kan. 251 (1966).
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