United States v. Lopez-Avila

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 01-12-2012
  • Case #: 11-10013
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judges Bea for the Court; Circuit Judge Noonan and Senior District Judge D. Walter
  • Full Text Opinion

Double Jeopardy does not bar a retrial where prosecutorial misconduct that led to a mistrial was not the result of a strategic decision to retry to case at a more advantageous date.

Aurora Lopez-Avila was tried in the district court of Arizona on drug trafficking charges. At trial, the prosecutor read back part of Lopez-Avila's transcript where she denied being coerced. During the read back, the prosecutor took the transcript out of context, omitting the statement of Lopez-Avila's denial of being coerced into taking a guilty plea, and used it to represent her denial of being coerced into transporting drugs, which was the basis of her defense. The district court granted a mistrial to correct the situation. Lopez-Avila moved that the case be dismissed with prejudice on the grounds that a retrial would be barred by double jeopardy. The district court denied the motion, and on appeal the Ninth Circuit affirmed the decision. An application of double jeopardy bars retrial for prosecutorial misconduct that results in a strategic mistrial. Although the prosecutor may have overstepped his bounds, the mistrial itself was not the goal of the prosecutor's actions, and therefore made double jeopardy inapplicable. Other Arizona state interpretations of double jeopardy also do not apply, as the regulations promulgated by the Arizona Department of Justice concede to "federal substantive, procedural, and evidentiary law" should there be a conflict. AFFIRMED and REMANDED.

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