Wednesday, September 28, 2011

People v. Espiritu (Cal. Ct. App. - Sept. 28, 2011)

I know, I know.  It seems crazy.  The jury found the defendant guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter and battery with serious bodily injury, but nonetheless said that it was "not true" that he used a knife even though all the evidence indicated that he did -- that was the only way he tried to kill (and batterred) his wife.  That doesn't make any sense.  It's clearly wrong.  Even though, once the judge individually polled them, they all said, yes, that's their verdict.  It's obviously nutty.

Nutty, yes.  But you can't send 'em back to correct it.  A jury's entitled to acquit someone notwithstanding the evidence.  Once they say, yes, we intended to acquit him, it's over.  We're done.  You can't say, as the trial judge did here, "But you found him guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter?!  Go back and think about this some more and see if you really think it's 'not true' that he used a knife."  Even if you do that in the most neutral terms, you've done something wrong.  That's the nature of an acquittal in our system.

The Court of Appeal understands.  The trial court's error (Judge Genesta, in L.A.) was perhaps a little understandable as well -- it seems facially silly, after all, to allow such a crazy verdict --but it's nonetheless clear error regardless.

Can't do that.