Articles Posted in Violent Crimes

The California Supreme Court recently decided an interesting case discussing how the double jeopardy clause is implicated after a case results in a mistrial. The issue presented was whether a court must accept a partial verdict of acquittal on a greater offense if a jury has expressly stated that it has acquitted on the greater offense but is deadlocked on the lesser charges.

In this case, the defendant was charged with murder. According to the evidence presented at trial, the defendant’s girlfriend texted the defendant one night saying that she was afraid her father, who lived with her, was going to rape her as he had done in the past. The defendant went to the girlfriend’s house, and a fight ensued. The defendant fatally stabbed the girlfriend’s father with an ice pick.

The case went to trial, and the court instructed the jury on the charge of first-degree murder, as well as the uncharged lesser-included offenses of second-degree murder, and voluntary manslaughter. After a few days of deliberations, the jury foreperson told that court that the jury had “basically ruled out murder in the first degree.” The foreperson stated the jurors were split, with regards to the remaining charges. The court subsequently declared a mistrial because the jury could not reach a decision. Afterward, the defendant argued that the first-degree murder charge should be dismissed based on double jeopardy. The defendant argued that because the court did not receive a partial acquittal on the first-degree murder charge, the court could not retry the defendant on that charge.

In May 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California homicide case discussing whether the trial court correctly instructed the jury on the defendant’s self-defense claim. Ultimately, the court concluded that the jury was properly instructed to consider only known threats that the victim made against others.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant and several other men approached the victim’s trailer to evict him from the property, which was owned by one of the men with the defendant. Evidently, the landowner believed that the victim had stolen from him.

As the defendant approached the victim’s trailer, the victim’s friend, who also lived on a trailer and was being evicted, arrived. The men got into an argument, and the defendant put the victim in a headlock. According to the victim’s friend, the defendant pulled out a gun, put it to the victim’s head, and pulled the trigger. The victim died instantly. It was later determined that the victim had high levels of methamphetamine in his system.

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