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Name: People v. Superior Court (Woodward) (2024) 100 Cal.App.5th 679
Case #: H051311
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 03/14/2024

Prohibition against double jeopardy does not bar the refiling of a murder charge where the trial court’s dismissal order was not clearly based on legal insufficiency of the evidence. In 1992, Woodward was charged with murder. The case went to trial and twice resulted in deadlocked juries. After the second mistrial, the trial court dismissed the case under Penal Code former section 1385, “in the furtherance of justice for insufficiency of the evidence.” In 2022, the murder charge was refiled based on new DNA evidence. On Woodward’s motion, the trial court dismissed the case on double jeopardy grounds. The prosecution sought a writ of mandate. Held: Petition granted. Double jeopardy prohibits a defendant from being twice put in jeopardy for the same offense. (U.S. Const., 5th & 14th Amends.; Cal. Const., art. I, § 15.) In People v. Hatch (2000) 22 Cal.4th 260, the California Supreme Court explained that because section 1385 dismissals are often based on factors other than insufficiency of the evidence, they “should not be construed as an acquittal for legal insufficiency unless the record clearly indicates the trial court applied the substantial evidence standard.” Although the trial court articulated “insufficient evidence” as the primary basis for its dismissal under section 1385, the record does not “clearly indicate” that the court applied the substantial evidence test in concluding that the evidence was legally insufficient to support a conviction. Rather, the trial court’s assessment of the quality of the evidence and likelihood that a jury would be able to convict Woodward in the absence of new evidence “suggests a reweighing of evidence rather than an application of the substantial evidence standard.” Because the section 1385 dismissal order could not be construed as an acquittal, double jeopardy does not bar refiling the murder charge.