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Name: People v. Verducci
Case #: A140040
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 01/11/2016

Trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying a motion to dismiss (Pen. Code, § 1385) made prior to retrial after three previous hung juries. Verducci was charged with murder and various enhancements. The first jury deadlocked 8 to 4 in favor of guilt, resulting in a mistrial. Verducci was retried and a mistrial was declared after the second jury deadlocked 11 to 1 in favor of guilt. A third jury hung 9 to 3 in favor of acquittal and the court declared another mistrial. Verducci was tried a fourth time. Before trial he moved to dismiss the case in the furtherance of justice (Pen. Code, § 1385). The trial court denied the motion. The jury convicted Verducci. He appealed, arguing that his due process rights were violated because the sequence of the trials showed that his conviction was the outcome of a process of attrition whereby the prosecution learned the defense strategy and fine-turned its case until it finally obtained a conviction. Held: Affirmed. Aside from one opinion from a superior court appellate division, there are no California decisions addressing whether successive trials after jury deadlock that do not violate double jeopardy principles may still violate a defendant’s due process rights. However, other states have found that a court possesses discretion to dismiss under such circumstances. The Court of Appeal assumed without deciding that the trial court had discretion to dismiss. However, the trial court here did not abuse its discretion or violate Verducci’s due process rights. It provided a well-reasoned explanation for its decision. The Court of Appeal refused to “second guess the trial court’s ruling, which found particularly relevant the strength of the People’s evidence, the seriousness of the charges, and the limited prejudice to Verducci of a fourth trial.” The trial court also considered the likelihood that additional evidence would be presented at a fourth trial.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: