Cases and Opinions of the FindLaw Minnesota Court of Appeals. (2023)

Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Minnesota, Defendant, v. Ralph Henry SOYKE, Appellant.

Number C0-98-499.

Decision date: October 27, 1998

Considered and decided by HUSPENI, P.J., RANDALL and FOLEY, JJ. Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General of St. Paul, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner and St. Paul Mark Nathan Lystig (on behalf of the defendants). James T. Hankes, Chief Public Defender, Ramsey County, Leif Carlson, Deputy Public Defender, St. Paul (Appellant).


Appellant Ralph Soyke appealed an order denying his motion to dismiss a second- and fifth-degree sexual offenses complaint that the Circuit Court overturned Soyke's first trial when the jury stalled. We extend our discretion to review and confirm orders.


The complaint alleges that Soyke had non-consensual sexual contact with two minors while Soyke was a rider at the state fair. The original complaint included two counts of fifth-degree sexual misconduct, but was later amended to add two counts of second-degree sexual misconduct.

Soyke provided the Court with only a partial record of the proceedings. But it seems indisputable that the trial was extremely short, with opening statements, depositions and closing arguments on the same day. The jury was briefed the next morning and began deliberating at 9:00 am.

The jury sent a memo to the District Court shortly after deliberations began. The jury served a second notice as the court urged all parties to consider their responses. "We need a tape recorder or a tape transcript," read the first note, referring to Soyke's tape of police testimony. The court replied that the jury would not receive the transcripts, but would have the option to play the tapes in open court.

The jury's second statement was, "If [the defendant] is guilty [in] 2 [degrees], is 5 [degrees] automatic?" A verdict is issued for each count to answer this question. The court then sent the jury back for further deliberation at around 10:20 a.m.

The court reconvened at 3:21 p.m. and read the jury statement which stated:

We are stuck and can't see enough of what is presented as testimony, evidence and fact for us to make a unanimous decision. There is a strong enough sense on one side or the other that we do not see a solution.

What guidance or process can you provide?

The court initially responded that the jury should re-read the instructions, but then approached the jury chief, who replied that the instructions reflected the mood of the jury. The court re-read CRIMJIG 3.04, taking into account the need for a unanimous verdict and the duty of the jurors to consider and be willing to re-examine their views. 10 Minnesota Practice, CRIMJIG 3.04 (1990).

After reading CRIMJIG 3.04, the court asked the jury foreman "whether there would be any benefit to the panel returning to further deliberations."

We're at a point where we have enough polarized opinions that we don't see any way to convince one side or the other to stand together on one side or the other, so we don't believe we can get back together and continue the discussion. We feel that we have exhausted all these possibilities. Specifically, we're looking for direction because we don't know what we can and can't do from this point on.

Foreman then explained that the jury wanted to ask for clarification of the evidence, but knew it might not be able to do so.

The court replied that it could read the statements, but did not allow jurors to ask questions of evidence. The court then expressed concern that it would not do anything to influence the jury's decision. The court explained that it was trying to decide whether "continuing deliberations would lead to a verdict" or whether the jury was "at a hopeless impasse." After discussions with the jury's lawyers, the court addressed the jury:

Does [Foreman] fairly summarize the polarization and difficulty with which the panel was able to resolve issues in this case?

Most of the jurors answered in the affirmative. The court then declared a "jury hung" and nullified the trial.

Soyke moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds of double jeopardy, arguing that there was no "clear necessity" for the court to declare an error in the trial. After the hearing, the district court dismissed the application. The court agreed that both sides wanted further jury deliberations and said the court itself has a similar inclination until the jury comes back and finds that the jury "stands on its own". The court said it made a decision "without reasonable likelihood of conviction" and declined to dismiss the complaint.


Does double jeopardy prevent the appellant from reconsidering the case?


We must first briefly describe the Court's jurisdiction over this appeal. Soyke has yet to be tried or convicted again on sex offense charges, so while there was a trial and it was found to be a mistake, the district court's ruling is a pre-trial injunction and Soyke is not eligible for appeal. See R. Crim, MN. Page 28.02, paginated. 2(2) (except for certain types of warrants, defendants have no right of appeal until final judgment is rendered); State v. Murphy, 537 N.W.2d 492, 494-95 (Minn.App.1995) (with denial of pre-trial injunction. Double jeopardy dismissals are not appealable). However, since the dossier is fully developed and the issues fully presented, we will extend the review as needed. See generally State v. Childs, 269 N.W.2d 25, 26 n. 1 (Minn.1978) (explanation of reasons for extended discretion), R. Crim, MN. Page 28.02, paginated. 3 (Discretionary appeal).

Soyke argued that double jeopardy barred him from a retrial on a sex offense charge after the district court declared the trial flawed due to defense objections. Although the district court found that the jury was deadlocked, Soyke argued that there was no "clear necessity" to maintain the wrongful conduct.

The double jeopardy clause protects the accused from being prosecuted again for the same offence. Oregon v. Kennedy, 456 U.S. 667, 671, 102 S.Ct. 2083, 2087, 72 L.Ed.2d 416 (1982). "The double jeopardy clause provides criminal defendants with a 'valuable right to trial in a particular court.'" at 671-72, 102 S.Ct. in 2087 (referring to Wade v. Hunter, 336 U.S. 684, 689, 69 S. Ct. 834, 837, 93 L.Ed. 974 (1949)).

The classic standard for raising the double jeopardy threshold to second instance if a trial is terminated because of the defendant's objection is the "manifest necessity" standard, first articulated by Justice Story in the court's opinion in United States v. Perez, 9 Wheat 579, 580, 6 M.Ed. 165 (1824).

ID. W 672, 102 S.Ct. in 2087. The most common form of "clear necessity", the "typical example" is a hung jury. ID.

Therefore, we agree with Soyke that the "manifest necessity" standard applies when a trial error is declared due to a hung jury. But our review is very limited. The Supreme Court has made it clear that of all the "manifestly necessary" misdemeanor judgments, the hung jury verdict is the most respected verdict on appeal. Arizona v. Washington, 434 U.S. 497, 509-10, 98 S.Ct. 824, 832, 54 L. Ed. 2d 717 (1978). The Washington Supreme Court stated,

In this case, there are particularly compelling reasons to allow the trial judge a great deal of discretion in deciding whether "manifest necessity" justifies a jury release. On the one hand, if he recalled the jury and further deliberations could result in a fair verdict, he would deprive the defendant of "the precious right to a final trial before a particular court." But if he fails to relieve the jury and the jury, after long and exhaustive deliberation, is unable to reach a verdict, there is a high risk that the verdict may be due to the stress of the situation rather than the thoughtful judgment of all the jurors. If a retrial by the defendant is prohibited, whenever the appellate court sees the "necessity" of the wrongful trial differently than the judge, the latter may realize the serious social consequences of the wrongful trial and use coercive measures to stop the trial. An apparent impasse. * * * The decision of the trial judge to declare an error in the trial when the jury was found deadlocked was therefore greatly respected by the review court.

ID. (footnote omitted) (emphasis added).

The general standard for reviewing decisions to declare a bug is the standard on abuse of discretion. State v. Long, 562 NW2d 292, 296 (Minn. 1997). However, the Supreme Court stressed that the "highest degree of respect" was due to the trial court's decision that the error was justified. ID. (Cited in Arizona v. Washington, 434 USA, 511, 98 S.Ct., 833). In addition, as noted above, the highest degree of respect is due to a hung jury that declares a flaw in the trial. As the Supreme Court put it,

[t]belief that another judge could have acted differently does not allow the trial judge to find a mistake.

id. At 297-98.

Here the district court received the foreman's report, as well as the foreman's recorded oral statement and jury consent, all of which constituted conclusive evidence of the deadlock. Moreover, the court had the opportunity to observe the behavior of the foreman and the other jurors and to assess the depth of their sense of impasse. Although both lawyers wanted the court to order the jury to continue deliberations, the opinions seemed largely formulated and presented before the jury chairman himself expressed the jury's frustration, saying that they did not believe they could "continue the discussion" and that they had "exhausted all such possibilities.

Soyke's argument that the jury did not deliberate long enough to reach a deadlock is baseless. Clearly, the trial was brief, lasting just one day, and concerned a relatively simple question of credibility. Four and a half to five hours of deliberation was clearly not enough to deadlock a jury that had heard testimony for less than a day. Courts must be careful not to force a verdict or make the jury think deadlock is not an acceptable option. State v. Jones, 556 NW2d 903, 912 (min. 1996).

There was some truth in Soyke's argument that the District Court should reconvene with the attorneys before declaring a trial error, but he did not provide grounds for rebuttal. A similar dual jeopardy suit was dismissed by the Iowa Court of Appeals in State v. Connelly, 551 NW2d 329 (Iowa Ct.App.1996). At Connelly, the jury also returned with questions after hours of deliberation. ID. at 330. After answering questions and deliberating the jury for a total of about five hours, the jury notified the waiter that they had reached an impasse. ID. at 331. The judge asked the foreman if further deliberations would be fruitless, to which he replied in the affirmative, and then voted for the other jurors, who all replied in the affirmative. ID. The court then "dismissed the jury with no further investigation." ID. The appellate court, noting that the trial judge "should have consulted the trial counsel and the defendant", ruled that there had been no abuse of discretion in declaring wrongful conduct. ID. At number 331-32. The trial judge "is best placed to assess the nature of the case and the admissibility of a jury deadlock," the court noted. at 332.

The district court is here to observe the behavior of the jurors and to assess the depth of their differences. We cannot guess the District Court's decision that the jury was indeed deadlocked, so that there was a "clear necessity" to declare an error in the trial.


The district court did not err in declaring an error in the trial due to the jury deadlock. So the double jeopardy clause does not prevent Soyke from retrial.




DANIEL F. FOLEY, Judge. *FN* Retired Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge appointed to service under the Minnesota Constitution. Piece. VI, § 10.


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