State v. Santiago

State v. Santiago, 2018 MT 13 (Jan. 30, 2018) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court abused its discretion by giving the deadlocked jury an Allen instruction.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Santiago was charged with sexual intercourse without consent, plead not guilty, and went to trial. On the last day of trial, after a few hours of deliberations, the jury sent the judge a note saying it was deadlocked 11-1. The state suggested the court give the jury an Allen instruction, otherwise known as a dynamite instruction, which the Montana Supreme Court approved in Norquay. Santiago objected on the grounds that the vote was 11-1, arguing that the Allen instruction would put an extreme undue burden on the one juror. The court acknowledged the objection but gave the instruction. After further deliberation, the jury still could not reach a unanimous decision and the court declared a mistrial.

At Santiago’s second trial, the jury became deadlocked six hours into deliberation.

Procedural Posture & Holding: The state again requested an Allen instruction, Santiago objected, and the court gave an instruction nearly identical to Norquay’s. The jury continued deliberating and returned a guilty verdict. Santiago appeals, and the Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: A court cannot place undue pressure on the jury to reach a verdict, but it can provide an Allen-like instruction to a deadlocked jury. Allen. v. United States, 164 U.S. 492, 501-502 (1896). The instruction is meant to remind the jury of its responsibility to consider the facts of the case, deliberate with one another, and attempt to reach a unanimous verdict. An appropriate Allen-instruction protects a defendant’s right to an uncoerced jury verdict while ensuring a jury is properly encouraged to deliberate in an attempt to render a final verdict. It cannot ask jurors in the minority to surrender their convictions and follow the majority.

In Norquay, the Montana Supreme Court revised Montana’s Allen instruction to remove any potential coercion, and instructed trial courts to use the new language. The Court reaffirms that the approved instruction does not objectionably coerce jurors or force them to a unanimous verdict.