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State v. Knight – Case Brief Summary (Wisconsin)

In State v. Knight, 143 Wis. 2d 408, 421 N.W.2d 847 (1988), Knight and a codefendant were charged with robbery, endangering safety by conduct regardless of life, and false imprisonment.

After 14 hours of deliberations, the jurors sent a note to the judge saying they were unable to reach a unanimous decision on the two robbery charges (one for each defendant).

The parties agreed to accept the jury's verdicts without further deliberation. When the jury was brought out, a juror informed the court that it was "deadlocked" as to the robbery counts and they "did not want any more time to deliberate" because more time would not help them reach verdicts on those counts. 143 Wis.2d at 412.

The court took the verdicts on the decided counts, which were that both defendants were guilty of endangering safety and false imprisonment.

The judge then gave an Allen charge and retired the jurors to deliberate on the robbery charges. They returned with guilty verdicts later that day.

The Supreme Court of Wisconsin reversed Knight's robbery conviction.

It held that, because in taking the verdicts on the endangering safety and false imprisonment counts, the court did not "indicate . . . that it was accepting only the verdicts that the jury had agreed upon," the court "effectively accepted" the two verdicts and the deadlock. Id. at 417-18.

Accordingly, the trial court should have declared a mistrial on the robbery count, due to the deadlock, and not retired the jury to deliberate further, that being an "invasion of the province of the jury." Id. at 418.