APPELLATE HIGHLIGHTS

  • SEE ALL
  • CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS

State v. Manatau 2014 UT 7 (Mar. 7, 2014) 

Mar 7, 2014

The Utah Supreme Court reversed a defendant’s conviction for various charges on double jeopardy grounds because the legal necessity for a mistrial “was not established on the record.” During the first trial, the defendant’s wife brought him a suit jacket that contained a pocket knife, and the trial court excluded her from trial as a result. After the jury was sworn, defense counsel requested that defendant’s wife be allowed to reenter the courtroom, to which the state objected. The trial court allowed the wife to return. After taking a recess, the judge explained that the knife incident “was affecting her more than she had previously thought,” and she declared a mistrial, despite objections from the State and the defense. At a second trial, the defendant moved to dismiss the case on double-jeopardy grounds, but the court rejected this claim, and he was convicted. On appeal, the Utah Supreme Court reversed, holding that after a mistrial a second trial may only proceed without violating the Utah Constitution if “(1) the defendant consents to the mistrial or (2) there is ‘ legal necessity’ for the mistrial.” Where the defendant does not consent, “legal necessity is established only if a mistrial is the ‘ only reasonable alternative to insure justice under the circumstances.’” A mistrial is considered the only reasonable alternative only if (1) upon a careful evaluation the trial judge considers alternatives to mistrial and concludes no alternative exists and (2) the trial court establishes a factual record for its determination of legal necessity. Because the trial court did not consider alternatives to a mistrial and did not create a record to establish there was no reasonable alternative, the Utah Supreme Court could not decide whether the mistrial was legally necessary. Accordingly, the Court held the first trial served as an acquittal, and the second trial violated double-jeopardy.