SCOTUS Doesn't Find Double Jeopardy During Mistrial

SCOTUS Doesn't Find Double Jeopardy During Mistrial

Although Blueford v. Arkansas is a civilian trial, it provides interesting precedent in all lower courts (including military courts martial). Here, the issue before SCOTUS was whether the Constitution's double jeopardy clause bars the state from retrying the defendant on charges of capital murder and first-degree murder after the jury told the trial court that it had voted unanimously against those charges but was deadlocked on the manslaughter charge against him and eventually failed to reach a verdict. The trial court subsequently declared a mistrial, and the defendant attempted to block a retrial, arguing double jeopardy.

The Supreme Court held, however, that the defendant could be tried again. Justice Roberts, writing the majority, concluded "The jury in this case did not convict [the defendant] of any offense, but it did not acquit him of any either. When the jury was unable to return a verdict, the trial court properly declared a mistrial and discharged the jury. As a consequence, the Double Jeopardy Clause does not stand in the way of a second trial on the same offenses."

It will be interesting to see how SCOTUS' ruling will affect the military justice system; this will likely make defense challenges of double jeopardy (as in United States v. Easton) much more challenging.

Citations

United States v. Easton, No. 12-0053/AR

Blueford v. Arkansas (132 S. Ct. 2044, 2012)

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