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Criminal procedure — Jury instruction — “Try to reach a unanimous verdict”

By indictment filed in the Circuit Court for Worcester County on September 28, 2015, the State of Maryland charged appellant, Victor R. Checco-Pena, with two counts of second-degree rape, two counts of fourth-degree sexual offense, and one count of second-degree assault. Following a jury trial on February 11, 2016, Checco-Pena was convicted of one count of second-degree rape, one count of fourth-degree sexual offense, and second-degree assault. That same day, he was sentenced to a total of nine years’ incarceration.

On February 24, 2016, Checco-Pena filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that the circuit court failed to give a proper Allen charge after it received a note from the jury stating that they could “not reach a unanomous [sic] decision on any of the charges.” In addition, Checco-Pena asserted that the jury verdict was inconsistent. Following a hearing on April 21, 2016, the circuit court denied Checco-Pena’s motion, and this appeal followed.

Checco-Pena asks:

1. Whether an instruction to a deadlocked jury of “Please continue to deliberate and try to reach a unanimous decision for now” constitutes an abuse of discretion?

2. Whether contradictory verdicts as to identical charges pertaining to two acts, virtually identical in nature and both turning on the credibility of the same witness, but slightly separated as to time and place, are inconsistent?

Read the opinion here: