Motion for New Trial Based on Newly Discovered Evidence in California

Under Penal Code section 1181, subdivision (8), a trial court may grant a new trial "when new evidence is discovered material to the defendant, and which he could not, with reasonable diligence, have discovered and produced at the trial." In ruling on a motion for new trial based on newly discovered evidence, the trial court considers: (1) whether the evidence and not merely its materiality is newly discovered; (2) whether it is cumulative; (3) whether the evidence is such that it would render a different result probable on retrial; (4) whether the party could with reasonable diligence have discovered and produced it at trial; (5) whether the evidence to be offered is the best evidence of the matter to be proved. (People v. Beeler (1995) 9 Cal.4th 953, 1004.) Further, as a general rule, " 'evidence which merely impeaches a witness is not significant enough to make a different result probable . . . .' " (People v. Green (1982) 130 Cal.App.3d 1, 11.) "The normal standard of review of an order granting a new trial motion is both well established and highly deferential. A new trial motion 'is addressed to the judge's sound discretion; the judge is vested with the authority, for example, to disbelieve witnesses, reweigh the evidence, and draw reasonable inferences therefrom contrary to those of the trier of fact; on appeal, all presumptions are in favor of the order as against the verdict, and the reviewing court will not disturb the ruling unless a manifest and unmistakable abuse of discretion is made to appear.' In exercising its broad discretion, 'the trial court may draw inferences opposed to those accepted by the jury, and may thus resolve the conflicting inferences in favor of the moving party, for "it is only where it can be said as a matter of law that there is no substantial evidence to support a contrary judgment that an appellate court will reverse the order of the trial court."' While the reviewing court must consider only those reasons for granting the motion stated by the trial court in its order, within those confines the question on appeal from an order conditionally granting a new trial on the basis of excessiveness of damages is simply 'whether a verdict for an amount considerably less than that awarded by the jury would have had reasonable and substantial support in the evidence.' " (Horsford v. Board of Trustees of California State University (2005) 132 Cal.App.4th 359, 379 (Horsford).) Thus, when a trial court has granted a new trial on the grounds of "excessive . . . damages" or "insufficiency of the evidence" (Code Civ. Proc., 657, subds. 5 & 6), "'we have held that an order granting a new trial under section 657 "must be sustained on appeal unless the opposing party demonstrates that no reasonable finder of fact could have found for the movant on the trial court's theory." Moreover, "an abuse of discretion cannot be found in cases in which the evidence is in conflict and a verdict for the moving party could have been reached . . . ." In other words, "the presumption of correctness normally accorded on appeal to the jury's verdict is replaced by a presumption in favor of the new trial order." The reason for this deference "is that the trial court, in ruling on a new trial motion, sits . . . as an independent trier of fact." Therefore, the trial court's factual determinations, reflected in its decision to grant the new trial, are entitled to the same deference that an appellate court would ordinarily accord a jury's factual determinations. . . . The trial court . . . is in the best position to assess the reliability of a jury's verdict and, to this end, the Legislature has granted trial courts broad discretion to order new trials. The only relevant limitation on this discretion is that the trial court must state its reasons for granting the new trial, and there must be substantial evidence in the record to support those reasons.' (Lane v. Hughes Aircraft Co. (2000) 22 Cal.4th 405, 411-412, italics omitted.)" (Horsford, supra, 132 Cal.App.4th at p. 386.)