Legal analyst explains 'Allen charge'

Judge reads prescribed statement telling jurors to make another attempt

Judge Russell Healey
Judge Russell Healey

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jury deliberations will continue Saturday, marking the fourth day of deliberations in the Michael Dunn trial. Channel 4 spoke with a former prosecutor about the way a judge can apply some pressure to a jury, but not too much.

If the jury is deadlocked and can't come to a unanimous decision, that won't keep a judge from applying a little more pressure through the Allen charge.

"It's known as being the dynamite charge or the dam-buster charge. It can literally open up a deadlocked jury," said Wesley White.

Former Assistant State Attorney Wesley White told Channel 4 how the Allen charge could play a role. When a jury struggles to find a unanimous decision, the rule based on a case in 1896 comes into play.

"The idea is it prompts (the) jury to look at things anew, but it's not coercive," said White.

The judge reads a prescribed statement telling the jurors to make another attempt.

"I've seen some judges pronounce the Allen charge in a pretty strong, severe way. They make it very clear. 'We want you to go back and give this another shot, do you understand?'" said White. "It's almost that strong."

The Dunn trial jury hasn't admitted to a deadlock. Lawyers on both sides are probably bracing for a verdict based on Friday's question. White said the jury's inquiry probably is encouraging for the state.

"Overall, you're going to feel pretty good that your work and efforts will bring home a conviction (and) hopefully some closure to the family," said White.

About the Authors: