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The Miura Case: Foreign Judgments, Double Jeopardy, and Ex Post Facto

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Japanese media are abuzz with the case of Kazuyoshi Miura, a Japanese businessman accused of killing his wife and then claiming they had been mugged during a visit to Los Angeles in 1981. But the Los Angeles District Attorney has a problem. Miura was previously prosecuted for this crime in Japan. The LA Times website has stories on this case all the way back, including this recent one. Miura was originally convicted, but the conviction was reversed and an acquittal entered by a higher court.

Miura is presently in jail in Saipan in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands awaiting extradition to L.A. He is represented by Mark Geragos, who has filed this motion to quash and points and authorities.

This case is not really about the constitutional double jeopardy clauses, state or federal. The constitutional limit does not preclude a second prosecution by a different government, as we saw in the Rodney King case. Instead, the case is about California's statutory rule which, at the time of the crime and the time of the Japanese decision, said that a prior prosecution in another country was a complete defense. The statute was amended in 2004 so that foreign judgments are no longer a bar, although the defendant gets credit for any time actually served in the foreign prison.

Could such a statute apply retroactively? Stogner v. California, 539 U.S. 607 (2003) held that a change in the statute of limitations enacted after the time had already run could not apply retroactively to revive a barred prosecution. I can't see how this is distinguishable. Geragos makes this argument in part V.

But do we even need to reach the constitutional question? As a matter of statutory interpretation, was AB 1432 of 2004 intended to apply retroactively to already barred cases? Nothing in the bill says so. As the U.S. Supreme Court reminded us again today in Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party, it is a "fundamental principle of judicial restraint that courts should [not] 'anticipate a question of constitutional law in advance of the necessity of deciding it.'" Applying both the principle that statutes are presumed nonretroactive and the doctrine of constitutional doubt, the right answer seems to be that AB 1432 does not apply to strip a defense already vested by the effective date of the legislation. Geragos curiously does not make this argument.

2 Comments

Other states have these double jeopardy statutes as well.

The interesting aspect of this case(IMHO)is whether or not the double jeopardy bar should apply to a case tried in a judicial system substantially different from that of California. As indicated above Miura's "acquittal" was entered by an appellate court. In California the appellate court would have remanded the case and allowed the District Attorney to re-charge the case or not. The defendant waives his right to making the double jeopardy objection by filing the appeal, requesting a new trial done without the error he claims took place in the original.The appellate courts of California do not engage in fact finding as the appellate court in Japan did.
The bottomline question is: Was the procedure used in Japan such an aberration from California law as to justify not following the literal meaning of the statute which was subsequently amended in 2004?
Ostensibly the underpinning rationale of having a double jeopardy bar is that it is the logical and natural extension of full faith and credit which itself is founded on an implicit premise of similar if not identical procedures followed in criminal cases.
I agree with the writer above that the 2004 amendment cannot be applied retroactively. I am not as convinced that the statute is invulnerable to an attack based on the substantial differences between the Japanese and California criminal justice procedures.

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