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PD-0711-18 09/12/2018

“When a defendant is acquitted on a defense of a third person theory after stabbing a person engaged in a fight with a friend, does the collateral estoppel component of the Double Jeopardy Clause as articulated in Ashe v. Swenson and this Court’s opinions bar his subsequent prosecution for stabbing another person who was not fighting?”

Adams intervened in a fight between Justin Romero and Luke Hisey.  Joe Romero, Justin’s brother, tried to stop Adams. Adams stabbed both Justin and Joe. At the trial on his assault of Justin, the jury was instructed on defense of a third person. Adams was acquitted of assaulting Justin. Prior to trial on Joe’s stabbing, Adams alleged the trial would violate his Double Jeopardy rights because the State is collaterally estopped from relitigating the justification defense at the heart of both assaults.  The trial court denied the pretrial writ.

The court of appeals reversed. It held that “the ultimate issue of fact in the State’s prosecution of Adams was decided against the State in the first trial; the jury found that there was at least a reasonable doubt that Adams acted in defense of Hisey during the altercation that involved both Justin and Joe.”

The State argues that the defensive issue to be decided at the trial on Joe’s assault was not “necessarily decided” by the acquittal in the trial on Justin’s assault.  The reasonableness of Adams’s belief that it was necessary to stab Justin to stop his beating of Hisey is a different question from whether it was reasonably necessary to stab Joe, who was not in the fight. A rational jury could find an actor would be justified to use deadly force in one case but not the other.

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