Partial-Acquittal And Double Jeopardy: CSC Adheres To Defense-Favorable Rule
September 10th, 2019

Stone v. Superior Court (1982) 31 Cal.3d 503 recognized the “deceptively simple” yet “complex, rapidly expanding body of law” surrounding the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy arose from both the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, section 15 of the California Constitution. However, Blueford v. Arkansas (2012) 566 U.S. 599, 132 S.Ct. 2044 overruled the precedent which provided the federal constitutional basis for Stone’s partial acquittal rule.

People v. Aranda (2019) 6 C5th 1077 upheld Stone’s defense-favorable rule. Aranda was charged with murder in Riverside County in 2009.  He stabbed his girlfriend’s father in a fight, after his girlfriend “feared her father was going to rape her as he had done before.”   The jury was instructed on first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and voluntary manslaughter.  They received a guilty verdict form for each offense and a single not-guilty verdict form.


On the third day of deliberations, the foreperson reported that “we’ve basically ruled out murder in the first degree” but they were at a stalemate between second-degree and manslaughter.


The next day, defense counsel asked that the jury be given a not-guilty verdict form for first-degree.  The prosecutor objected.  The foreperson reported one vote for second-degree, two votes for manslaughter, and nine for acquittal.  The judge refused to send in the additional verdict form.  By the end of the day, no jurors had changed their votes, and the judge declared a mistrial.


The defense moved to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds.  The judge dismissed the first-degree allegation but said Aranda could be retried for second-degree murder.  The DA appealed.  The CCA, 4th District, Division 2, affirmed.  219 Cal.App.4th 764 and the CSC granted the DA’s petition for review. (See this post (2/16/2015): Partial Acquittal Rule: Does Stone Survive Blueford?


In upholding Stone the CSC held as follows in Aranda:


Stone v. Superior Court (1982) 31 Cal.3d 503 concluded that a court must accept a partial verdict of acquittal as to a charged greater offense when a jury has expressly indicated it has acquitted on that offense but has deadlocked on uncharged lesser included offenses. The question here is whether the Stone rule has been abrogated by the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Blueford v. Arkansas (2012) 566 U.S. 599 which concluded that federal double jeopardy principles do not require a court to accept a partial verdict. We conclude the Stone rule survives as an interpretation of the state Constitution’s double jeopardy clause. The trial court’s failure here to receive a partial acquittal verdict on first degree murder rendered the declaration of a mistrial on that charge without legal necessity. Accordingly, defendant may not be retried on that allegation.” (Aranda at 1081.)


Blueford does not call the rationale of Stone into question because Blueford concerned a foreperson’s oral remarks about what “may” have been a tentative acquittal. Stone, on the other hand, provides for partial verdict forms and the acceptance of written partial verdicts.

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