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Granada-Ruiz v. Eighth Judicial District Court of State

Supreme Court of Nevada

August 2, 2018


          Original petition for a writ of mandamus, or in the alternative, prohibition in a criminal matter.

          David M. Schieck, Special Public Defender, and Robert Arroyo, Alzora B. Jackson, and JoNell Thomas, Deputy Special Public Defenders, Clark County, for Petitioner.

          Adam Paul Laxalt, Attorney General, Carson City; Steven B. Wolfson, District Attorney, Steven S. Owens, Chief Deputy District Attorney, and Nicole J. Cannizzaro and Kenneth N. Portz, Deputy District Attorneys, Clark County, for Real Party in Interest.



          CHERRY, J.

         Petitioner Gambino Granada-Ruiz stood trial on charges of murder and battery with substantial bodily harm. During a weekend recess in jury deliberations, one juror conducted extrinsic legal research and shared that information with other jurors when deliberations resumed. After considering argument from counsel and canvassing two jurors, the district court declared a mistrial. Granada-Ruiz moved to dismiss the charges based on a constitutional double jeopardy theory. The district court denied the motion and set the matter for a new trial. Granada-Ruiz petitions this court for a writ of mandamus[1] directing the district court to grant his motion to dismiss and bar his re-prosecution following the mistrial. We conclude that double jeopardy does not prohibit Granada-Ruiz's retrial under the totality of the circumstances because he impliedly consented to the district court's declaration of a mistrial, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding manifest necessity to declare a mistrial. Therefore, we deny Granada-Ruiz's petition on the merits.


         The State charged Granada-Ruiz with murder and battery resulting in substantial bodily harm. Whether Granada-Ruiz and the victim had a physical altercation was not at issue, and the trial hinged on whether Granada-Ruiz acted in self-defense. The trial proceeded to jury deliberations without incident. On the second day of deliberations, however, the district court received two notes from jurors. The first note was from Juror No. 12 and claimed that Juror No. 3 had performed external legal research on the internet the previous weekend. The second note was from Juror No. 3 and stated that he had researched legal definitions and was unwilling to disregard what he had found.

         The district court summoned both parties and, before Granada-Ruiz arrived, informed counsel for both sides of the developments and that the district court would need to determine if further deliberations were possible. The district court stated that it would canvass the jurors to determine whether the information had been shared, the nature and scope of the taint, and whether the deliberative process had been so compromised to necessitate a mistrial.

         The State suggested that the district court conduct a two-part inquiry to determine whether the information had been shared and whether the remaining jurors would be able to disregard it. It further posited that, because Juror No. 3 had separated himself from the other jurors, his research may not have affected their deliberations. Granada-Ruiz's counsel disagreed, stating that external research entering the deliberation room was inherently a problem, creating the possibility that it "infect[ed] the jury." The district court again indicated that if canvassing revealed the external research had been shared amongst the jurors, deliberations may be irreparably tainted and whether the trial continued would ultimately be up to the court.

         Upon Granada-Ruiz's arrival, the district court apprised him of what had occurred and allowed the parties to present the caselaw they had found in the meantime.[2] To determine the nature and extent of the taint, the district court called the foreperson for canvassing. The foreperson stated that although multiple jurors had informed Juror No. 3 that he should not attempt to discuss his external research, the deliberations throughout the day included discussions about Juror No. 3's external research concerning the definitions of premeditation and self-defense. The foreperson further stated that Juror No. 3 perceived a difference in what was stated during closing argument about premeditation and what his research revealed, and the deliberations never meaningfully returned to the jury instructions on either issue because "the conversation really got bent more on what Juror No. 3 was saying about premeditation."

         After dismissing the foreperson, the district court told both parties that it would question Juror No. 3 but that it appeared external research concerning the central issues presented to the jury had permeated deliberations and led to the exclusion of the jury instructions on two points of law. The district court stated that it struggled to see how deliberations could be untainted, even if the remaining jurors offered assurances that they could disregard the improper research. The district court requested both parties' thoughts on proceeding. The State maintained that the district court could disregard the external research so long as the remaining jurors rejected it and canvassing revealed that the external research did not affect deliberations. Granada-Ruiz's counsel stated that she wanted to hear from Juror No. 3 but that she tended to agree with the court's initial impression that the external research both permeated the deliberations and concerned the central issue of trial.

         The district court then canvassed Juror No. 3. Juror No. 3 stated that he had been confused by something the State had said in closing arguments and decided to research premeditation and self-defense on his own for clarity as to sufficient time lapse for forming a premeditated intent and continuing danger for purposes of self-defense. Juror No. 3 stated that he perceived the other jurors comments about outside research being impermissible to mean that he was not allowed to consider the law and that the law was "stricken from the record." He further stated, "I don't know what I am doing. I don't know what is going on to be honest with you." After Juror No. 3 returned to the deliberation room, the district court stated that Juror No. 3's incoherent statements and fundamental misunderstanding of his duty demonstrate his inability to serve on the jury, and the district court reiterated its concern over the nature and length of discussion involving external research. Counsel for Granada-Ruiz then expressed Granada-Ruiz's frustration after two weeks of trial and said, "[s]o it's my understanding that the Court is going to declare a mistrial. I don't know if we are going to try to go down that road of trying to discuss it." Defense counsel and co-counsel asked the court to "find out [the results of] the 11 to 1" preliminary jury vote, and stated, "I think based on that, we have our opinion. We would just like to know." Not hearing any objections, the district court ordered a mistrial, finding a manifest necessity as there could be no assurances that any further product of deliberations would be fair and impartial and unaffected by the external research. The district court informed the foreperson that it was declaring a mistrial and asked the foreperson about his earlier note indicating that the jury had voted and deliberations were not moving toward unanimous decision. The foreperson stated that the vote stood at 11 to 1 not guilty. The court then dismissed the jury.

         Granada-Ruiz moved to dismiss the charges, arguing that there was no manifest necessity for a mistrial, such that re-prosecution was barred by constitutional double jeopardy principles. The State opposed the motion, arguing that the court acted within its discretion in declaring a mistrial, and Granada-Ruiz did not object to it. After oral arguments, the district court denied the motion and issued the following findings of facts and conclusions of law: (1) neither party requested a mistrial, (2) the court considered alternatives to declaring a mistrial, (3) it had canvassed the jury in order to determine whether a mistrial was necessary, (4) the jurors had discussed the substance of Juror No. 3's research for a lengthy period, (5) the jury never returned to the statements of law in the jury instructions, (6) the court found manifest necessity to order a mistrial because the research pertained to material facts and issues and the jury's deliberation on ...

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