Judge dismisses 30 year-old Mountain View murder case due to double jeopardy

John Kevin Woodward was charged with murder for the third time last year after new evidence was discovered in the 1992 killing of Laurie Houts.

Woodward, a 59-year-old tech executive, is accused of killing 25-year-old Houts in Mountain View back in 1992 after she left work at Adobe Systems.

However, a judge says she’s dismissing the case, citing double jeopardy, which has left the Houts family in disbelief.  

The case against Woodward has been tried twice before and both ended in a mistrial. The judge says trying this case again is double jeopardy, but Houts' family says they’ll keep fighting for justice.  

"We were disappointed that we couldn’t be in the courtroom, and she couldn’t say it to our faces when the decision came down. It all came through emails," said Marilyn Reiss, Laurie Houts' friend.   

Houts’ family and friends say they’re devastated that new DNA evidence implicating Woodward won’t be heard by a jury.  

"If this judge can make this decision on our case, then all cold cases going forward where DNA evidence has been found later on, after decades of families waiting, then their cases are in jeopardy also," Reiss said.  

Santa Clara County Judge Shella Deen ruled that trying the case for a third time is double jeopardy because Woodward was technically acquitted in the last trial. Double jeopardy means to prosecute a person twice for the same offense. 

The Houts family has vowed to fight to change the system.  

"The appeals process is how you actually change the system, and that’s really what needs to happen. So we’re going to fight with this appeals process and hopefully get some justice," said Cindy Ivers, Houts' sister.  

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen released a statement saying in part that his office is going to fight the judge's decision.  

"We are appealing the judge’s decision because we want the defendant held accountable for murder," Rosen said. 

Detectives say they've continued to review the case over the years and after testing DNA collected from a rope, they found Woodward to be a match. They also say they found additional fingerprints belonging to Woodward.  

"There are a lot of us that love Laurie, that will remember and continue to plug on and give this case the light of day until justice is served for Laurie," Reiss said.   

Woodward has been on house arrest here in California since last year but is expected to be released on Tuesday. 

Woodward’s attorney Dan Barton did not respond to a request for comment.