It is important for defendants to remember that what they have been charged with is not always what they will end up being convicted of. Charges are dismissed at various stages of a criminal case for a variety of different reasons. Even when a defendant goes to trial, charges can still be dropped or a defendant can be acquitted altogether. In the following two cases, both defendants were in trial when, at different points during the proceedings, the judge determined that the state had failed to prove the defendant committed the crime alleged.
In the first case, the judge dropped the defendant's murder charge in the middle of the trial. According to Hawaii News Now, though the case just went to trial earlier this month, the crime actually occurred four years ago, in 2013. 20-year old Jason Oliveros, who suffered from mental illness, died from multiple stab wounds after a confrontation with several individuals. One of those individuals was Vainuupo Tosoga, who was charged with Oliveros' murder. However, after the prosecution finished presenting their case, "Judge Karen Nakasone ruled there wasn't enough evidence to prove Tosoga delivered the fatal blow.” She then dismissed the murder charge.
Tosoga was not off the hook, however, as he was still charged with misdemeanor assault. His attorney argued that Oliveros “was also responsible for what happened after he challenged the men to a fight.” Prosecutors argued that “the beating went far beyond a mutual fight.” In a second blow to state the “jury disagreed with [Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Tashima] and convicted Tosoga of a petty misdemeanor.” As the maximum penalty for this offense is just thirty days and “Tosoga had already spent more than a year in jail, he walked out of the courthouse Friday afternoon a free man.”
In another case, the charges were not just dismissed but the defendant was actually acquitted of the charges. However, unlike the first case, this did not occur until "moments before a jury was to begin deliberations." The Knoxville News Sentinel reported on the case of Raynella Dossett Leath, who was charged with the murder of her second husband, David Leath. Prosecutors had argued that she had shot her husband and then tried to make it looked like a suicide. This was the third trial that Leath had to go through over the death of her second husband.
The judge who acquitted Leath, Special Judge Paul Summers, did not disagree that David had been killed by someone. David was shot three times, but the third shot would have been impossible for David to fire as “every expert agreed he was dead after the second one.” According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Summers decision came after the prosecution had “spent the bulk of their efforts proving not that Raynella Leath was a killer but that David Leath didn't kill himself.” Summers stated that “although the state had put on proof David Leath was murdered, they offered nothing but ‘innuendoes' suggesting his wife was the killer.”
The Knoxville News Sentinel states that the judge had noted there wasn't evidence tying Raynella to the gun, she had not had “gunshot residue on her hands or blood on her clothes,” there was no motive presented, that prosecutors hadn't established when David died, or that his wife was home at the time of his death. Because there was a lack of sufficient evidence that Raynella had committed the murder, Summers decided the case should not go to the jury after the eight-day trial and issued a directed verdict in favor of Raynella.