Skip to comments.Supreme Court says double jeopardy does not protect against murder retrial
Posted on 05/24/2012 8:08:26 PM PDT by Olog-hai
Arkansas may retry a man for murder even though jurors in his first trial were unanimous that he was not guilty, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
Alex Blueford, who is accused of killing his girlfriends 1-year-old son, is not protected by the Constitutions Double Jeopardy Clause, the court ruled in a 6 to 3 decision.
Because the judge dismissed the jury when it was unable to reach agreement on lesser charges, Blueford was not officially cleared of any of the charges, the majority said, and thus may be retried.
The jury in this case did not convict Blueford of any offense, but it did not acquit him of any either, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote.
The decision brought a sharp dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.
Bluefords jury had the option to convict him of capital and first-degree murder, but expressly declined to do so, Sotomayor wrote. That ought to be the end of the matter.
The Double Jeopardy Clause is found in the Constitutions Fifth Amendment and commands that no person shall be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb for the same offense.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
I gotta side with the wise latina on this one.
Never thought I’d ever say that sentence.
I agree with you. Roberts’ logic is strained on this one.
I agree. Roberts is wrong on this one, I think.
I’m totally shocked by this decision. They couldn’t be more wrong... :-/
I’m totally shocked by this decision. They couldn’t be more wrong... :-/
Perhaps more was appealed from this case than the USSC took up. Like the judge ought to have accepted the partial not guilty verdicts.
It seems to open the door for the prosecution and judge to engineer almost limitless mulligans.
Bad, bad, very bad, decision.
The majority was right on this one. Until a jury has reached its verdict, any back and forth they have with the judge is just part of their deliberations.
There have been cases where juries have already decided, but asked the judge a last minute question, the answer to which changes the vote of one or more jurors, who notify the jury foreman.
Even more common, when a jury finds a defendant guilty, the defense can demand that each individual juror be polled to say, on their own, that yes, they did vote guilty. This is based on a suspicion that a juror was bullied into a verdict they disagreed with, or was just misheard by the foreman.
However, that being said, I think it was inappropriate for the prosecutor to present a whole gamut of charges for which the defendant could have been convicted for the same offense.
That is like a multiple choice question where four of the answers are “yes”, and only one is “no”. It is unbalanced in favor of conviction.
This is a dangerous precedent. It is one of those broken clock moments at SCOTUS.
It appears that a technicality is in effect here, if I’m reading this correctly.
There were a numbr of charges. One of them was murder. There were a number of lesser charges. However, it’s all one trial.
Since the jury couldn’t answer all of the questions, the jury appears to have been dismissed before it officially announced any of its decisions.
The judge dismissed the jury. I assume that means he thought the process was broke, so he sent the jury home.
If I’m reading this correctly, NO acquital was every announced for any charge including the murder charge.
Am I reading this correctly up to this point?
In this case, the jury unanimously agreed against capital murder, unanimously agreed against 1st degree murder, and split against manslaughter (9-3 tilted toward acquittal).
Whether this was the right verdict or wrong verdict, it is unconstitutional to retry the charges he was acquitted on, and I am astounded the supreme court is allowing it.
Sorry, but the jury did not reach a decision. I think the judge should have taken the verdict on the two counts, but that probably requires an actual verdict form and the judge polling the jury not just a statement by the foreman.
I wonder if the guy appealed again asking appeals courts to order the judge to reconvene the jury and take those verdicts, if he would get such an order? I wonder if the judge had the power to do that in that state?
Technically, this didn't happen and is the basis of the majority's opinion. The basis for the majority's decision is really weak. The Arkansas law in this regard is clearly unconstitutional.
You are correct about the wise latina getting this one right.
I agree with you that the fault here lies with the Prosecution. Pick a charge or charges and present your case! No more throwing everything at the defendant to see what sticks, because to me it comes across as you, the Prosecution, don’t really have any idea what really happened. So how are you supposed to convince a jury?
The Constitution is unequivocal on this issue. You cannot be tried twice for the same offense. Here the Jury reached a unanimous verdict of not guilty on the murder charge. The prosecution charged a lot of lesser included offenses as a back up to the murder charge just in case they didn't win on that one. They lost on that one.
The bottom line is that the Jury acquitted the defendant of the crime of murder but because the jury could not reach a verdict on manslaughter or cheating on his taxes or whatever other crimes he was accused of during the trial, the judge did not accept the verdict and ordered a new trial on all issues including the murder charge that the Jury actually made a decision on.
This is a real travesty of justice. I've been seeing a lot of this kind of stuff lately and my confidence in the judicial system is at an all time low.
Roberts should be ashamed of this decision. Just because you are a conservative does not mean that you have to bend the law to put away criminal defendants. This guy probably deserved to be convicted, but he wasn't. The Constitution prohibits double jeopardy and this is as clear a case of double jeopardy as I can imagine.
They never officially rendered any decision on any charge.
The jury acquitted the guy on the murder charge.
The judge failed to enter the verdict.
The court has green-lighted multiple trials based on a judge’s error, an error any judge could now make to justify a future retrial for any defendant the judge or The State doesn’t like.
Define "officially acquitted".
Did the jury reach a unanimous decision on the murder charge?
Did the Jury inform the court of their decision?
How can you defend this decision?
I don’t think it ever got to that point. No verdict was officially rendered before the jury was dismissed.
This destroys the entire concept of double jeopardy.
Just have a judge dismiss a jury before verdicts because you don’t think it’s going the way you want, and you can retry a person again.
Technicalities are important. If the jury has not officially entered a verdict then no verdict exists regardless of the state of the jury at a given time.
Can we apply this decision to OJ?
So, you’re saying that the jury was called in to announce it’s verdict....that the judge didn’t stop them PRIOR TO the end of their deliberations?
Is that right? (I don’t know if I’m asking this question well.)
I would absolutely oppose any retrial of the man if the jury walked into the courtroom and announced innocent on the first item, murder, but we’re hung on items 2, 3, 4, and 5.
If, however, (1) the jury was still in the jury room deliberating, and (2) they’d taken what amounted to a final poll on each of these items, and (3) they were unable to reach a decision except on one of them, and (4) they had not returned to the courtroom to announce, and (5) the judge dismissed them because they couldn’t decide, THEN, I’d say there is a technicality at play here.
Othewise, it doesn’t make sense why Scotus would rule what they did.
From the Syllabus: "As permitted under Arkansas law, the jurys options in this casewere limited to two: either convict on one of the offenses, or acquit on another optionthat of acquitting on some offenses but not others."
There was no verdict that is recognized under the law in Arkansas. The majority simply refused to determine if the Arkansas law was in violation of the U.S. Constitution and declare the Arkansas law unconstitutional. This goes to show that even conservative justices can be so out of touch with the real world in their ivory tower.
...unless someone wants to be able to endlessly
persecute uh, prosecute an enemy of the state.
The jury fills out the official paperwork, announces they have a verdict, and the foreperson reads it in open court with the defendant present.
In this case, a representative of the jury spoke with the judge about their difficulties reaching a verdict, that’s part of the deliberation process only. What if upon further reflection and with further review when the judge told them to go back and deliberate more, they had found him guilty of murder? Until official, juries change their minds on guilt and innocence through further deliberation all the time, they just don’t always announce their feelings at the present time in front of the judge which is what happened here.
I am not a lawyer, but think once a jury is dismissed, it’s dismissed and can’t be reconvened. They are warned when they are seated before the trial not to discuss the case with anyone else, including other jurors, much less family, etc. Once dismissed, they are free to discuss the case and most probably have, so their opinions would be tainted.
On first blush this looks like a bad decision, but I understand what I’ve read so far about Roberts’ opinion, and want to read the whole opinion before thinking it’s good or bad - for all the effect that will have!
It is idiocy and stupid jury instructions like that which have caused me to lose my faith in the judicial system.
I have jury duty next week and if some judge asks me whether or not I am going to follow his jury instructions I'm going to tell him that I probably won't.
In this case the law is clearly unconstitutional because it permits and even encourages double jeopardy by refusing to recognize a unanimous jury decision on one charge unless the jury makes a decision on all charges. It clearly encourages prosecutors to overcharge defendants.
The fact that this is a decision supported by so-called conservative justices tells me that their allegiance is to something other than the constitution.
I don't believe I live in a constitutional republic anymore.
People should read the dissenting opinion. It is very well-reasoned and explains why the technical lack of a “verdict” is a bogus argument.
Black originally had a hung jury.
Technically the jury was prohibited from doing that.
The problem lies in the Arkansas law which does not allow a jury to acquit of the most serious charge unless they convict the defendant of a lesser included offense or aquit on all offenses. That is insane. In this case the jury did reach a unanimous verdict on the murder charge. They were deadlocked on the lesser charges. But under this STUPID law and this STUPID decision the defendant will have to face the murder charge again.
It is these minor technicalities in the law and in the jury instructions which make the law an ass.
no they didn't they arrived at no verdict at all...certainly open to further charges.
I didn't know that Ebonics was allowed on this forum.
Seems to me that this is splitting a mighty fine hair.
I agree. The Arkansas law does sound ready-built for an over-charging prosecutor.
What would be acceptable logic for requiring that there must be a verdict of some sort on minor charges or else the whole thing goes back to trial, including the murder charge?
The only thing I can think of is that they’ve got this dead body, and they’ve clearly got the guy who did it, possible because “not guilty” doesn’t necessarily mean, not the perpetrator.
In that scenario I can see saying “If it’s not murder then you’ve got to decide if he’s guilty or innocent of manslaughter or negligent homicide. You can’t just let a guy walk away from a dead body.”
5th Amendment: "[N]or shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb . . . ."[
But that has nothing to do with a separate trial, correct?
The jury did not reach a decision on the lesser charges. The jury did make a decision on the murder charge. He ain't walking away. He can be tried again on the lesser charges. He should not have to be put in jeopardy again on a charge which the prosecution brought but for which the jury determined he was not guilty.
This is a scary decision for anyone who fears an overreaching government. This is exactly the kind of situation that the 5th amendment was designed to prevent.
What if it were reversed, and they couldn’t come to an agreement on some lesser charge but in DISCUSSIONS with the judge said they agreed you were guilty of murder? Even though it was never an official verdict, and more deliberation may have found jurors finding reasonable doubt, because the jury was dismissed, should you still fry?
There was a case in the Philly area about ten years ago where the jury announced they had reached a verdict and were brought back into the courtroom. When the jurors were polled one-by-one by the judge, they all said "not guilty" until they got to one guy who said, "guilty", thereby surprising everybody and throwing the court into chaos.
Apparently this was one of those cases where the killer's confession - - or maybe it was some other piece of damning evidence - - was thrown out on a slimy lawyer technicality. But everybody in the courtroom knew the guy was guilty of murder. The juror later said he just couldn't watch the killer walk free and so he changed his vote on the fly. In my opinion, that guy was a hero.
What if your premise was absurd?
Oh wait. It is.
Sorry, that should be Blago
The case remained unsolved for four years.
Police arrested Ogrod in 1992, after re-interviewing him and other neighbors.
The suspect confessed to police and later to a jailhouse snitch, but he later claimed that homicide detectives coerced a statement out of him and contended that inmate Jason Banachowski made up his story.
Ogrod went to trial in 1993 and was about to be found not guilty when a juror, Alfred Szewczak, changed his mind at the last second. A mistrial was granted.
Three years later, Ogrod went on trial again. This time, a jury convicted him in less than two hours.
sounds more like a mistrial.
A duly constituted jury reached a verdict on that charge. Would the prosecutor object if the situation were the reverse and the defense wanted the conviction overturned because the jury deadlocked on some other charges??? Has someone been sneaking crack into the donuts in the SCOTUS lunchroom?
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