Sunday, June 26, 2011

Case o' The Week: Better to Lose than Tie -- Flores-Perez and Interlocutory Appeal of Rule 29 After Hung Jury

Cirilio Flores-Perez had the bad luck to hang his federal jury, 9-3 for acquittal.

If he wanted review of the denial of his Rule 29 motions, explains the Ninth, he should have gone for a conviction. United States v. Flores-Perez, 2011 WL 2450984 (9th Cir. June 21, 2011), decision available here.

: Hard-fought and clever appeal by San Diego Assistant Defender Devin Burstein. Decision by Senior District Judge Mills (C.D. Illinois).

Facts: Flores-Perez hung a federal jury on a one-count indictment alleging an attempt to transport an undocumented alien. Id. at *1. (Nine to three in favor of acquittal, by the way). Id. The district court denied his Rule 29 motions brought at the close of the government's case and after the jury hung. Id.

The government then re-indicted with four counts, including the "attempt count." Id. Flores moved the district court to dismiss the superseding indictment on double jeopardy grounds. Id. His motion was denied, and Flores-Perez appealed. Id.

The government challenged the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Id.

Issue(s): [Ed. note: The ‘84 Supreme Court decision Richardson v. United States, 468 U.S. 317 (1984), effectively eliminated defense double jeopardy challenges on interlocutory appeal, after a mistrial or hung jury.]

“[U]nder Richardson, double jeopardy claims asserting termination of jeopardy due to a hung jury and associated mistrial are no longer colorable.” Id. at *2. "Flores argues that Richardson and its progeny are not controlling because he is appealing the denial of his motion to dismiss the superseding indictment, not his Rule 29 acquittal motion.” Id.

Held: “We hold that the filing of a superseding indictment after mistrial does not raise a colorable double jeopardy claim.” Id. at *3. “[W]e lack jurisdiction to review the district court’s denial of the motion for acquittal.” Id. at *4.

Of Note: Senior, out-of-circuit, district Judge Mills creates a new Ninth rule in this case. The San Diego Defender cleverly argued that it wasn’t challenging the Rule 29 motion (barred on interlocutory appeal); it was challenging the superseding indictment that followed the jury hang. Id. at *3-5. Judge Mills rejects the challenge and makes a new Ninth rule along the way: “the issuance of a superseding indictment does not nullify the original indictment, and . . the issuance of a superseding indictment does not terminate the original jeopardy.” Id. at *4.

This is one of those simple new rules that has complex ramifications. Judge Mills favorably quotes authority that explains that all a superseding indictment does is create another choice for the government to proceed upon a trial – the original indictment, or the superseding. Seems the prudent move for the defense (and the district courts) is to now insist that earlier indictments be dismissed by the government when a superseding indictment is obtained, to prevent prosecutors from leap-frogging among charges before trial.

How to Use: Consider this case in the context of Allen charges. The decision on whether to ask for an Allen charge is always a tough choice for the defense. Remember than an Allen charge is that “dynamite” jury instruction designed to push a hung jury towards unanimity. Flores-Perez reminds us why this is such a hard call. If you’ve lost a truly righteous Rule 29 motion in the district court and end up with a hung jury and mistrial, you can kiss your appeal good-bye.

Is it actually better, in that setting, to get the Allen charge, risk the conviction, and preserve the right to appeal the denial of the Rule 29 motion? Flores-Perez is a good cases to tuck next to the Allen instruction tab on your trial binder, as a reminder of the appellate issues at stake.

For Further Reading: The Supreme Court’s Richardson decision created a particularly galling rule. To see the Richardson rule in action, consider James: a case out of the ND of Cal.

In the first round of this bank robbery case, the government flat-out forgot to introduce proof of FDIC insurance. The district court erroneously denied the Rule 29 motion, and the jury convicted on three out of four counts – hanging on the fourth. Jeopardy attached, the bank robber appealed, the denial of the Rule 29 was reversed by the Ninth, the defense celebrated. United States v. James, 987 F.2d 648, 652 (9th Cir. 1993).

But, as noted above, on the fourth count the jury hung. Because jeopardy didn’t attach, no interlocutory appeal was available and the bank robber never got the FDIC / Rule 29 issue from the fourth count before the Ninth. See United States v. James, 109 F.3d 597 (9th Cir. 1997). James was tried again and convicted. Id. at 598. Hence, after Richardson, the clearly-guilty – who have the good fortune of getting convicted – enjoy appellate review of their Rule 29 motion. Defendants facing weaker proof, who hang their juries, are out of luck in the Ninth.

"Hung jury" logo from

Steven Kalar, Senior Litigator N.D. Cal FPD. Website at



Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home