Archive | Allen charge

Friday, July 30th, 2021

District court’s egregious flouting of long-established procedures regarding a jury note and a proposed Allen charge does not constitute “plain error” because its mistakes did not prejudice the defendant

In United States v. Catherine Melhuish, No. 19-485 (2d Cir. July 27, 2021) (opinion by Judge Nardini, joined by Judges Walker and Wesley), the Circuit rejects the defendant’s argument that the trial judge erred in responding to a jury note and in proposing an Allen charge during deliberations; concludes that 18 U.S.C. § 111, prohibiting the assault of a federal officer, is a general-intent offense; and remands for further fact-finding on the defendant’s claim that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to introduce evidence supporting an insanity defense. The first is worth discussing.

The principal issue is the trial judge’s egregious refusal to follow the Circuit’s long-established procedures for how to deal with jury notes and supplemental instructions during deliberations. These are the steps that a trial judge must follow:

(1) the jury inquiry should be in writing; (2) the note should be marked as the court’s exhibit …

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