Double Jeopardy

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Q: After kicking my best friend out of a tax cab, the driver went into a liquor store and got shot to death.  I was tried for his murder.  From jury selection to jury instructions, the trial took less than nine hours, spread over six different days.  Following that, after four hours of deliberations, the judge declared a mistrial.  A new trial has been scheduled.  Isn’t this double jeopardy?

A: The Double Jeopardy Clause of the U.S. Constitution says that no person shall be subject, for the same offense, to be “twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”  As a general rule, the prosecutor is entitled to only one ‘bite at the apple’ – only one opportunity to require you to stand trial.  A person deserves not to be subjected to embarrassment, expense and ordeal and not to live in a continuing state of anxiety.  Justice should not appear to be a matter of mere chance: with enough throws of the dice, a guilty verdict is bound to appear eventually.

But the protection of the Clause is said to apply only if there was some event, such as an acquittal, that terminated the original jeopardy.  If there was a ‘manifest necessity’ to declare a mistrial, then the original jeopardy is said never to have ended.

For reasons that you may not have told me, this judge evidently felt that there was a manifest necessity – that the jury was genuinely deadlocked and had no reasonable probability of reaching an agreement.  Had the judge seen notes from the foreman?  What did those notes say?  Like it or not, please understand that a reviewing court is entitled to give great deference here to the opinion of the trial judge.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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