Jurors to resume deliberations next week in dog-burning case

Panel sent two notes saying it could not reach a verdict

  • Her kidneys failing, veterinarians euthanized the extensively burned year-old dog known as Phoenix.
Her kidneys failing, veterinarians euthanized the extensively… (Photo provided )
February 04, 2011|By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun

Jurors in the trial of twin brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson, accused of setting a pit bull on fire in 2009, will resume deliberation next week, after twice indicating Friday that they were having trouble reaching an agreement.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Lawrence P. Fletcher-Hill gave the struggling jury an "Allen Charge" instruction Friday afternoon to help bring them to a consensus and avoid a mistrial.

The Allen Charge typically urges jurors to continue deliberations and reconsider their individual views if they're in the minority. It's considered a last-resort instruction by some attorneys, who claim it can push the jury toward a rash, unjust decision.

Members had sent a note to the judge that morning suggesting that they were having trouble reaching a verdict.

"What if we cannot come to a total consensus? Any recommendations?" the note said. Five and a half hours later, they sent a similar message, saying they were unable to agree.

Fletcher-Hill assembled them in the courtroom to deliver the instruction.

"Do not hesitate to re-examine your view," he said as part of the charge. "You should change your opinion if you are convinced you are wrong."

The jury must decide whether the 18-year-old twins set fire to a pit bull known as "Phoenix" in 2009, then ran away, as the prosecution says — or whether the defendants have been made fall guys by Baltimore police, who were under pressure from outraged animal welfare advocates to close the case, as the defense argues.

Jurors continued to work for several hours after receiving the Allen Charge, breaking for the weekend about 6:30 p.m. They're expected to resume their work Monday morning.

tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

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