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State v. Taylor

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

June 12, 2019

The State, Respondent,
v.
Billy Lemurces Taylor, Appellant. Appellate Case No. 2016-000549

          Submitted February 1, 2019

          Appeal From Greenville County Robin B. Stilwell, Circuit Court Judge

          Appellate Defender David Alexander, of Columbia, for Appellant.

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Melody Jane Brown, Assistant Attorney General Alphonso Simon, Jr., Assistant Attorney General Samuel Marion Bailey, all of Columbia, and Solicitor William Walter Wilkins, III, of Greenville, for Respondent.

          HILL, J.

         Seven hours and twenty minutes into their deliberations following four days of trial, the jury in Billy L. Taylor's criminal trial informed the trial court they were at an impasse. The trial court sent the jury home for the night. The next morning, the trial court gave the jury a charge derived from Allen v. United States, 164 U.S. 492 (1896). Taylor objected to the charge and moved for a mistrial. Two-and-a-half hours later the jury returned with a guilty verdict. Taylor now appeals, contending his motion for a mistrial should have been granted, and the Allen charge was unconstitutionally coercive. We agree the Allen charge was coercive and reverse.

         I.

         Taylor was tried for the attempted murders of Brittany Jeeter and Ashley Hiott, the murder of Rodney Nesbit, and the possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. The jury began deliberating at noon on the fourth day of trial, and soon the jury asked a question about the "hand of one, hand of all" charge. After further instruction, the jury resumed deliberations at 1:50 p.m. They returned to the courtroom at 7:20 p.m. after sending a note advising they were at an impasse. The note also contained an apparent tally of successive votes the jury had taken, indicating the latest vote was 10-2 in favor of conviction on the murder charge, 8-4 for conviction on the attempted murder charges, and 11-1 for conviction on the weapon charge. The trial court sent the jury home for the night. The next morning, the trial court gave the following charge:

Ladies and gentlemen, I recognize that last night you sent me a note that indicated that you were at an impasse and you told me the division that you had in that note as well.
Now, I understand that the decision that you have to make is very difficult. And when you get 12 people together, it's difficult to have 12 people agree. Particularly, when you come from different walks of life and you're just thrown together on a jury, it's difficult to make that decision. I know that, oftentimes, it's difficult for two people, just two people to make a decision. It's hard for my wife and I to figure out what we're going to eat for supper sometimes. So, this decision, I recognize is hard.
But understand that it's important that you come to a decision in this case. Understand that both the State and the Defense have extended significant resources and time and effort to get to this point. Also, know that the State and the County has extended resources to get to this point as well. And if you're unable to come to a verdict in this matter, then, essentially, we'd be left with having to do it all over again, extending additional resources, time and effort. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I will tell you that there are no 12 other people in the County of Greenville who are more capable or competent to come to a decision in this matter than the 12 of you are.
Now, again, I understand it's hard to come to a decision. But those of you who are in the majority should listen to the people in the minority. Those of you who are in the minority should listen to the people in the majority. You should take into consideration your respective positions and you should come to a decision in this matter. Again, it really would be a waste of time, effort and resources for us to have to do all of those over again. So, I'm going to ask you to go back to your jury room and resume your deliberations. . . .

         After the jury left the courtroom at 9:10 a.m., Taylor moved for a mistrial and also objected to the Allen charge on the ground that it was unduly coercive. He asked the court to instruct the jurors that a hung jury was "a legitimate end of a criminal trial" and sometimes the result of the State's burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. ...


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