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People v. Aranda

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Second Division

September 12, 2013

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Appellant,
BRIAN MICHAEL ARANDA, Defendant and Respondent.

APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County, No. RIF154701 Michele D. Levine and Helios (Joe) Hernandez, Judges.

Paul E. Zellerbach, District Attorney, and Kelli Catlett, Deputy District Attorney, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Blumenthal Law Offices, Virginia Blumenthal and Brent F. Romney for Defendant and Respondent.


McKINSTER, Acting P.J.


In Stone v. Superior Court (1982) 31 Cal.3d 503 (Stone), the California Supreme Court held that when a jury indicates that it has unanimously determined that the defendant is not guilty of a greater offense but is deadlocked only on a lesser included offense, the court must afford the jury the opportunity to return a partial verdict of acquittal on the greater offense before the trial court may declare a mistrial. If the court does not do so, the mistrial is deemed to be without legal necessity as to the greater offense, and double jeopardy principles preclude retrying the defendant for that offense. (Id. at p. 519.)

Not all states have a partial acquittal rule. In Blueford v. Arkansas (2012) 566 U.S. ___ [132 S.Ct. 2044] (Blueford), which was decided while this case was pending in the trial court, the United States Supreme Court held that the Fifth Amendment’s double jeopardy clause does not mandate such a procedure, and that, in a state which does not have a partial acquittal rule, if the jury deadlocks on a lesser included offense without formally returning a verdict of not guilty on the greater offense, the defendant may be retried on both the greater and lesser offenses. (Id., 132 S.Ct. at pp. 2048-2053.)

The People, the appellants in this case, contend that Blueford abrogates Stone, because Stone based its analysis solely on double jeopardy jurisprudence under the United States Constitution. Defendant contends that Stone is based instead on the California Constitution and that Blueford consequently does not abrogate the partial verdict rule enunciated in Stone.

We conclude that Stone continues to apply in criminal prosecutions in California state courts until such time as the California Supreme Court holds otherwise.


Defendant Brian Michael Aranda was tried on an information which alleged a single count of first degree murder.[1] The jury was instructed on first degree murder and the uncharged lesser included offenses of second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. The jury was apparently given “guilty” verdict forms for first degree murder, second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter, but only a single “not guilty” verdict form.[2]

On Friday, December 2, 2011, after the court received a report of possible misconduct by one juror—“throwing things” when the juror disagreed with other jurors—and that the jury was possibly deadlocked, the court summoned the jury foreman into the courtroom. The court asked the foreman “how things are going.” The foreman replied that the jury was at a stalemate. He stated that the jury had “basically ruled out murder in the first degree” and had “worked down to voluntary manslaughter, but there’s still a couple that are still stuck on second degree.” He stated that the jury was having “a tough time coming to a unanimous decision.” The court told the foreman to go back to the jury room and to continue deliberations.

The following Monday, December 5, the foreman sent a request to speak to the court. The foreman stated that there was still one juror who thought that defendant was guilty of second degree murder and two others who were “on the side of voluntary.” Nine jurors “are not guilty.” The foreman stated that the jury was “kind of at a stalemate.” He stated that the jury had gone through all of the evidence, “over and over and over.” He reported that some jurors were concerned about Juror No. 10 because Juror No. 10 “knows a lot of Corona police officers” and worked for the city. It was Juror No. 10 who was “pretty much stuck on second degree.”

The court asked the foreman to step out into the hallway. After discussion with counsel, the court decided to bring the jury in and “ask them what they can do” to assist the jury, but to have them continue to deliberate for the rest of the afternoon. When the jury came into the courtroom, several jurors asked questions concerning instructions. Juror No. 12 then said that although the jury had been deliberating for six days, they were still “at different ends of the spectrum.” Juror No. 12 did not ...

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