Gouveia v. Espinda, 061219 FED9, 17-16892

Docket Nº:17-16892
Opinion Judge:BERZON, CIRCUIT JUDGE
Party Name:Royce C. Gouveia, Petitioner-Appellee, v. Nolan P. Espinda, Warden, Director of the Department of Public Safety for the State of Hawaii; Clare Connors, Attorney General of the State of Hawaii, Respondents-Appellants.
Attorney:Donn R. Fudo (argued), Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Honolulu, Hawaii, for Respondents-Appellants. Peter C. Wolff, Jr. (argued), Federal Public Defender, Honolulu, Hawaii, for Petitioner-Appellee.
Judge Panel:Before: Kim McLane Wardlaw, Marsha S. Berzon, and Johnnie B. Rawlinson, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:June 12, 2019
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
FREE EXCERPT

Royce C. Gouveia, Petitioner-Appellee,

v.

Nolan P. Espinda, Warden, Director of the Department of Public Safety for the State of Hawaii; Clare Connors, Attorney General of the State of Hawaii, Respondents-Appellants.

No. 17-16892

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

June 12, 2019

Argued and Submitted October 12, 2018 Honolulu, Hawaii

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii Susan O. Mollway, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 1:17-cv-00021-SOM-KJM

Donn R. Fudo (argued), Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Honolulu, Hawaii, for Respondents-Appellants.

Peter C. Wolff, Jr. (argued), Federal Public Defender, Honolulu, Hawaii, for Petitioner-Appellee.

Before: Kim McLane Wardlaw, Marsha S. Berzon, and Johnnie B. Rawlinson, Circuit Judges.

SUMMARY[*]

Habeas Corpus

The panel affirmed the district court's judgment granting Royce Gouveia's 28 U.S.C. § 2241 habeas corpus petition challenging the trial court's grant of a mistrial in his Hawaii manslaughter case in which, after the jury reached a verdict but before the verdict was announced, jurors expressed concern for their safety because of a scary-looking man in the courtroom.

The panel held that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not preclude a federal district court from exercising jurisdiction under § 2241. The panel did not need to determine precisely what level of deference is owed to the trial court's determination that there was manifest necessity for a mistrial. The panel held that even under a more deferential standard, the trial court's manifest-necessity determination was erroneous because the trial court failed to provide any meaningful consideration of alternatives to mistrial. The panel concluded that the district court therefore did not err in concluding that retrying Gouveia would violate the Double Jeopardy Clause.

OPINION

BERZON, CIRCUIT JUDGE

Jurors in Royce Gouveia's trial saw a menacing-looking man on the prosecution side of the courtroom before they retired to deliberate. The jury proceeded to deliberate and reached a verdict. Before the verdict was announced, however, jurors expressed concern for their safety because of the scary-looking man. All the jurors stated that their verdict was unaffected by the man's presence. Nonetheless, the trial court, at the prosecution's request and against Gouveia's opposition, granted a mistrial. On federal habeas review, the district court held that there was no manifest necessity for the mistrial, so retrying Gouveia would violate his right not to be subjected to double jeopardy. We agree.

I

Gouveia was tried for manslaughter in Hawaii state court for the death of Albert Meyer. See Haw. Rev. Stat. § 707-702(1)(a). The testimony was that Gouveia struck Meyer during an altercation, and Meyer died after hitting his head on the pavement. The presentation of evidence concluded, both sides gave closing arguments, and the jury was sent off to deliberate.

This case turns on two notes the jury sent to the trial court in close succession. The first informed the court that the jury had "reached a verdict." A second, drafted a few minutes after the verdict message, stated: "Concern. This morning on prosecutor's side of courtroom there was a man, shaved head, glaring and whistling at defendant. We have concern for our safety as jurors."

After receiving the messages, the trial court gathered the attorneys and informed them about the notes. Explaining that it was inclined "to take no action on this," the trial court asked the parties what approach they suggested. The prosecution requested that the jurors be questioned, and Gouveia's attorney agreed.

The court then conducted individual voir dire of each juror. Before beginning, the court asked the attorneys whether they "ha[d] any idea what this is based on." The prosecution noted that Meyer's brother had been in the courtroom that morning "with [a] shaved head" and appeared "pretty upset."

The trial court proceeded to question each juror. Although a few testified that the man seemed angry and that they were afraid for their safety, all twelve jurors stated that the menacing-looking man's presence had not affected their votes. The jurors gave conflicting testimony as to when the safety concern about the shaved-headed man first came up in deliberations, some saying at the outset, others toward the end, and others only after the verdict was reached. One juror stated, "Yes," when asked whether the fear of the man "impact[ed] other people's decision," but did not elaborate as to how she knew that or what the impact was. But she, like all the others, said her own decision was unaffected.

After questioning the jury, the trial court asked Gouveia's attorney whether he wanted the court to take any additional steps; the attorney declined. The prosecution, however, moved for a mistrial, arguing that there was manifest necessity for a mistrial because some jurors had expressed safety concerns.1 According to the prosecution, the fact that Meyer's brother was "associate[d] with the prosecution and the decedent side" might have "lended more credibility to Mr. Gouveia's testimony as he testified." Gouveia's attorney opposed the motion, stressing that all the jurors had stated that their own votes had been unaffected by the incident, and that no jurors had expressed to the court any concern about the individual until it was announced that a verdict had been reached.

After a bit more discussion, the trial court granted the mistrial motion: I find it difficult to really believe when I . . . apply my reason and common sense to this that at least some of these jurors have . . . what strikes me as a really serious concern for their personal safety and it came up according to, at least as I count, four or five of them, it . . . was . . . one of the first topics of discussion when they got back in the room and started deliberating the case. Somebody brought it up and they started talking about it. It frankly beggars my reason and common sense that it would have no bearing on the deliberations in this case and therefore the verdict.

I'm going to grant the State's motion for mistrial. I'm going to find there's manifest necessity for such based on what I said . . . and everything else that's been put on the record, including my questions to counsel.

The verdict's going to be sealed for future purposes, if any, but obviously we're not going to take the verdict. I'm declaring a mistrial and I'm finding manifest necessity for that, because I don't think there's anything short of a mistrial . . . that can cure it. The verdict's tainted, in my view, based on my findings.

A few weeks later, the trial court issued findings of facts and conclusions of law to further explain its decision. The court reasoned that "[a]lthough there [was] no specific juror misconduct" in this case, it would adopt "the well-established 'harmless beyond a reasonable doubt' standard" for juror-misconduct claims. Relying on that standard, the trial court found that "the jurors' statements that the incident did not affect their decision-making process and/or deliberations [were] not credible," and reiterated its prior conclusion that "the jury was not impartial" and that "there [was] manifest necessity for a mistrial."

Gouveia moved to dismiss the prosecution, contending that there was no manifest necessity for the mistrial. The constitutional double jeopardy protection, Gouveia maintained, would be violated were he retried. The trial court denied the motion.

When Gouveia appealed the trial court's manifest-necessity finding, the appellate court unsealed the verdict form for purposes of the appeal. The form revealed that the jury had unanimously found Gouveia not guilty. State v. Gouveia (Gouveia I), No. CAAP-14-0000358, 2015 WL 2066780, at *7 (Haw. Ct. App. Apr. 30, 2015). The state appellate court affirmed, with one judge dissenting. Id. at *11; see also id. at *11-13 (Nakamura, C.J., dissenting). The Hawaii Supreme Court granted discretionary review, but then affirmed over one justice's dissent. State v. Gouveia (Gouveia II), 384 P.3d 846, 852-53 (Haw. 2016); see also id. at 857 (Nakayama, J., dissenting). The state high court held that the trial court "did not abuse its discretion in deciding that manifest necessity existed for a mistrial because the presumption of prejudice could not be overcome beyond a reasonable doubt and no reasonable alternatives to a mistrial were available." Id. at 853 (majority opinion).

Gouveia then filed a federal habeas petition. He argued that there was no manifest necessity for a mistrial and that the jury's verdict form, now unsealed, precluded Hawaii from retrying him. The district court granted the petition. Gouveia v. Espinda (Gouveia III)...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP