The Understanding of Double Jeopardy
Channelle M. Hopson
Grambling State University
Channelle M. Hopson, Department of Criminal Justice, Grambling State University. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Channelle M. Hopson, Department of Criminal Justice, Grambling State University, Grambling, La. 71245. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
This paper is to enlighten the audience of the double jeopardy rule. Double jeopardy refers to a person being tried again for the same offense after being acquitted. Double jeopardy is prohibited by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states: "…nor shall any person be subject for the same offence [sic] to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb…". The Fifth Amendment's Double Jeopardy Clause protects against three distinct abuses: a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal; a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction; and multiple punishments for the same offense. However, if charges are brought independently by state and federal governments, it has been found not to violate the Double Jeopardy Clause. (Double Jeopardy Law & Legal definitions, 2014)
The Understanding of Double Jeopardy
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution makes it clear that no person can be tried for the same crime twice. People who have been injustice or found innocent may not again be “Put in jeopardy of life or limb” for the same crime. The same is true of those who have been convicted: They cannot be tried again for the same offense. Cases that are dismissed for a lack of evidence also come under the double jeopardy rule and cannot result in a new trial. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that “the Double Jeopardy Clause protects against three distinct abuses: a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal; a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction; and multiple punishments for the same offense.” Double jeopardy does not play a role in cases of trial error.
During my research on the double jeopardy law the case of Blueford v. Arkansas is a great example of double jeopardy. Blueford raises an important question about the Fifth Amendment double jeopardy guarantee, which provides “nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This Clause protects a defendant who has been acquitted on criminal charges from having to stand trial again for the same crime. The question in Blueford is what happens in the following circumstance: A defendant’s jury has announced to the judge that it cannot reach a verdict on a lesser included offense, but it has also voted unanimously to find the defendant “Not guilty” of two greater offenses. At Blueford’s trial, the judge instructed the jury to deliberate on lesser included offenses only after unanimously voting to acquit Blueford on greater offenses. This meant, for example, that unless and until the jury unanimously voted “Not guilty” on capital murder, it could not even discuss the charge of first-degree murder. After some jury deliberation, the foreperson reported to the judge that the jurors had all voted “No” on capital murder and first-degree murder but were deadlocked on the charge of manslaughter and—as instructed by the judge—did not even begin deliberation on the fourth charge of negligent homicide. Denying the defendant’s motion to distribute verdict forms to the jurors and allow the recording of their verdict of release on the two murder charges, the judge declared a mistrial. The State then afterwards initiated a second trial on all charges, including the two murder charges, on which the jury had voted “Not guilty” at the first trial. The trial court at the second trial refused to dismiss the murder charges as barred by double jeopardy, a decision that the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed on an interlocutory appeal. Blueford contended on...
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