There was initial hope that the Kleiman v Wright jury could return a verdict before Thanksgiving. Now a full week later, the jury has told the court that they are struggling to agree on any of the questions they are tasked with deciding.
It raises serious concerns over whether a verdict will be reached at all. The jury has spent weeks in the courtroom listening to the plaintiff’s attempt to convince that a partnership existed between Dr. Craig Wright and the late Dave Kleiman to invent and mine Bitcoin. At this stage, extended and contentious deliberations are more likely to favor the defense than the plaintiff, and if the jury cannot come to a unanimous agreement, the trial of the century may be headed toward a mistrial.
There are intermediate steps the court can take in order to massage a consensus, however. This afternoon, Judge Beth Bloom issued an Allen charge in the hopes it might secure a verdict.
A somewhat controversial tool, an Allen charge is additional instructions given by the judge to a deadlocked jury to encourage the minority to reach an agreement. The exact instructions contained in an Allen charge follow a similar template: they remind the jury of their obligations and implore that the jury reexamine their position, pointing out that the jury in any subsequent trial is unlikely to be any better suited at addressing the question than they are.
Though not geared toward the jurors whose hold the minority opinion, the practical reality of the Allen charge is that if it has an impact at all, it works in favor of the majority opinion. For this reason, it is somewhat controversial, with critics complaining that it amounts to undue judicial influence.
The admission that they are struggling to agree on a verdict is not the first peep the court has heard from the jury since beginning their deliberations. The jury had earlier submitted questions to the court over several aspects of the verdict form. In particular, the jury expressed that they were having difficulties deciding on amounts, presumably referring to damages. While this might have been taken as a sign the jury were leaning toward finding that Dave was a partner to Dr. Wright in the invention of Bitcoin as Satoshi Nakamoto, this latest development indicates the jury are undecided on every count.
The judge can issue repeated Allen charges if this first one isn’t successful, but the deliberations have already stretched considerably further than expected. That isn’t of any legal relevance, but if there are members of the jury that are utterly unconvinced that Dave Kleiman had any role in the Satoshi Nakamoto partnership, it’s hard to see additional urgings from the court doing what weeks of evidence could not.
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