Monday, July 2, 2012

KY COA June 22 - Cozzolino - Directed Verdict in DUI case


To-be-published, June 22, 2012,

Vacating the Jefferson Circuit Court’s reversal of a directed verdict granted by the Jefferson District Court. 

            Cozzolino was tried for the offense of DUI in the Jefferson District Court.  He made a mid-trial objection to evidence obtained by police following a Miranda violation.  The District Court held a suppression hearing, and suppressed much of the prosecution’s evidence.  The prosecution continued with its case-in-chief, after which, the District Court granted a directed verdict of acquittal for Cozzolino.  The Commonwealth appealed the acquittal to the Jefferson Circuit Court, which reversed the District Court’s judgment that the remaining evidence presented by the prosecutor at trial was insufficient to meet the standard for a directed verdict.  The Circuit Court remanded the case to the District Court for another trial, reasoning that double jeopardy did not apply because the first trial had been prematurely concluded as a result of the defendant’s own motion.

            The Court of Appeals vacated the Circuit Court’s decision.  Quoting from Derry v. Commonwealth, 274 S.W.3d 439, 444 (Ky. 2008), and United States v. Scott, 437 U.S. 82, 91 (1978), the Court held the granting of a directed verdict motion in favor of a defendant in a criminal case terminates the prosecution, and a second trial following an appeal by the Commonwealth would violated the Double Jeopardy Clause.  “The district court weighed the evidence presented by the Commonwealth and found it insufficient to convict.  The dismissal was not based on a mistrial; it was related to Cozzolino’s factual guilt or innocence.  …  [W]e find that Double Jeopardy prevents Cozzolino from being tried again for DUI.”

Contributed by Tom Ransdell