In U.S. v. Valdiviez-Garza, No. 11-10105 (Feb. 6, 2012), the Court held that the prosecution for the offense of illegal re-entry by an alien who had been previously deported, under 8 U.S.C. § 1326(a), was precluded by collateral estoppel doctrine. The Court therefore ordered dismissal of the indictment.
In a previous prosecution, Valdiviez-Garza had been acquitted of illegal re-entry. The focus of his earlier trial - as evidenced by opening statements, defense cross-examination, closing statements and jury instructions – was on the element of citizenship: specifically, whether, on account of his father’s United States citizenship, Valdiviez-Garza was himself a citizen, and therefore not an alien who could violate the illegal reentry statute. Because the jury must have acquitted because of the government’s failure to establish this element, the doctrine of collateral estoppel precluded the government’s subsequent prosecution, when citizenship was again an essential element of the charged offense.