Saturday, May 26, 2012

SCOTUS restricts application of double jeopardy

Alex Blueford, was accused of killing his girlfriend’s 1-year-old son. Blueford was tried for the death of Matthew McFadden Jr., who died in 2007 from head injuries. Arkansas prosecutors said Blueford intentionally caused the boy’s death, while Blueford maintained that he had accidentally knocked the child to the ground, reported the Washington Post.

 Blueford sat in court and listened as the jury unanimously found that he did not commit capital murder and did not commit first degree murder.  Yet, the U.S. Supreme Court found that he is  not protected by the Constitution’s Double Jeopardy Clause.
The Double Jeopardy Clause is found in the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment and commands that no person shall be “twice put in jeopardy of life or limb” for the same offense.

 The Supreme Court opened the door to Blueford being tried again.

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, reported the Post.

The decision brought a sharp dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor. “Blueford’s 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.”

“This case demonstrates that the threat to individual freedom from reprosecutions that favor states and unfairly rescue them from weak cases has not waned with time,” she wrote reported the Post. “Only this court’s vigilance has.”

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