State v. Lee, 218 N.C. App. 42 (Jan. 17, 2012)

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court’s instructions to the jury coerced a verdict. The jury retired to begin deliberations at 3:38 p.m.  At 5:51 p.m., the trial judge brought the jury into the courtroom to inquire about its progress. The jury indicated that it had reached unanimous verdicts on two of the four charges. The trial judge then allowed a twenty-minute recess, giving the following challenged instruction:

What I am going to do at this point is allow you to take a recess for about 20 minutes[.] If anyone needs during this 15 or 20 minute recess to call someone, a family member, to let them know that you are going to be delayed  – but we are going to stay here this evening with a view towards reaching a unanimous verdict on the other two.  That’s where we are.  I want everyone to know that.  If you need to call someone to let them know you will be delayed, that’s fine.

After the recess, the jury resumed its deliberations. Eleven minutes later the jury returned unanimous verdicts in all four cases. Considering the totality of the circumstances, the instructions were not coercive.