August 21, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Trial Court Not Required to Inform Jury of Mistrial when Giving Modified Allen Instruction

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Gibbons v. People on Monday, June 30, 2014.

Modified Allen Jury Instruction.

The Supreme Court overruled People v. Raglin, 21 P.3d 419 (Colo.App. 2000), in which a division of the court of appeals held that a modified Allen instruction [See Allen v. People, 660 P.2d 896, 898 (Colo. 1983).] “must inform the jurors that if it appears to the trial court that a unanimous decision cannot be reached, they will be excused and a mistrial declared.”

The Court held that a trial court is not required to provide a mistrial advisement when giving a modified Alleninstruction. The trial court has discretion to instruct a deadlocked jury about the possibility of a mistrial when, considering the content of the instruction and the context in which it is given, the instruction will not have a coercive effect on the jury. The court should consider exercising its discretion in rare circumstances—for example, when a jury has indicated a mistaken belief in indefinite deliberations. Applying this holding, the Court concluded that the trial court did not err by failing to instruct the jury about the possibility of a mistrial. The judgment was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here.

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