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Name: People v. Zavala
Case #: F051843
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 11/24/2008
Summary

The rule of collateral estoppel does not apply when a rational jury could have grounded its verdict upon an issue other than that which the defendant seeks forclosure from consideration. An amended information charged appellant with, inter alia, murder, torture, kidnap, and sexual penetration by a foreign object. Appellant’s first jury acquitted him of the sex offense, and hung on the others. A second jury hung on all charges. The third jury found appellant guilty of second degree murder, torture, and kidnapping. Appellant argued the torture conviction had to be reversed under the doctrine of collateral estoppel because the charge was related to the sexual penetration charge of which he had been acquitted. When applying the rule of collateral estoppel, the reviewing court must “examine the record of the pleadings, evidence, charge and other relevant matter and conclude whether a rationale jury could have grounded its verdict upon an issue other than that which the defendant seeks forclosure from consideration.” Here, the jury’s acquittal on the sexual penetration did not determine the issue of whether appellant was guilty of torture. The torture conviction could be based on acts completely independent of the sexual penetration, namely appellant’s acts of knocking out the victim to immobilize him while the co-defendants beat him beyond recognition. Or, the jury could have found appellant guilty of torture based upon the fact appellant moved the victim as he screamed in pain because the tool handle the others used to sodomize him was still inside his rectum. Thus, the acquittal by the first jury on the sex offense did not determine the ultimate issue at the current trial on the torture count.