This recent criminal trial appeal was decided by the Appellate Division. The trial judge in the case gave the jury what is sometimes known as a “dynamite charge” – instructing them to continue deliberating even after they had announced they were deadlocked. Summary by Mark Friedman. Speak with an experienced New Jersey appeal lawyer 24-7.
State v. Uche Adim, ? N.J. Super. ?, 2009 N.J. Super. LEXIS 237 (November 12, 2009) – Convictions reversed. “Defendant contends that he is entitled to a new trial because, after the jurors reported that they were ‘not in agreement’ and were each ‘firm’ on that decision, the judge gave them an instruction to deliberate further that impermissibly pressured them to reach a verdict.
Because the supplemental instruction was coercive and accompanied by the judge’s outline of the State’s evidence, we agree that a new trial is warranted…. The supplemental charge given to defendant’s jury did not include the first sentence of the approved charge, which explains the relationship between collective deliberations and individual judgment.
Instead, these jurors were given two descriptions — one on the meaning of a juror’s oath and one on a juror’s ‘responsibility’ — both defined the obligation with reference to return of a verdict…. [I]n the final analysis this jury was left without a clear explanation of the relationship between a juror’s duty to deliberate and a juror’s duty to refrain from relinquishing individual judgment.
If the judge had given the Court-approved instruction, the jurors would have had that essential explanation. The duty is not a duty to return a verdict; an instruction that so defines the duty is coercive and inherently confusing….
When the jurors were unable to agree after additional deliberations on the following day, the judge provided a concise and abbreviated outline of the evidence. ‘You have four witnesses in this case, and the stipulated evidence, and that’s it.’
After naming each witness and identifying the subject of his or her testimony, the judge concluded: ‘That’s the evidence.’ This concise outline tended to demonstrate what the judge implied the night before — this case was not complicated and could be resolved by adequate and impartial jurors performing their duty given sufficient time. It is difficult to conclude that a juror given that simple outline would not be influenced to conclude that any doubt based upon complexities was an unreasonable doubt.” (Nancy Ferro)