Double Jeopardy and the movie "Fracture" (SPOILER)

I just watched the movie Fracture, and have a legal question about this. In case you have not seen the movie, Anthony Hopkins shoots his wife in the face and is charged with attempted murder. However he has hidden and manipulated the evidence in such a way that the judge grants an order for directed acquittal. Afterward, Hopkins orders the plugged pulled on his wife. Soon after the prosecutor discovers new evidence, and Hopkins confesses the murder to him, knowing that he cannot be charged for the second time twice. However, he was charged with attempted murder the first time…the movie ends with him being charged with murder now that his wife is actually dead.

My question is, is this legal? I thought the movie was great; IANAL but this seems like double jeopardy to me.

IANAL, but as I’ve always understood DJ, this is legal: he was acquitted of attempted murder. Afterward, through his own further actions, his wife died of the injuries he inflicted. That’s not attempted murder; that’s murder.

It wasn’t as if the prosecutor were just throwing darts at a crime and hoping one would stick; the nature of the crime changed after the first verdict.

But having the plug pulled on his wife was LEGAL. Where is the crime?

There’s another thread about this somewhere that I searched for after seeing the movie. My non-lawyerly summary of that thread is that the movie got it all wrong… double jeopardy has to do with the crime, not the charges. The crime was shooting his wife in the face, and he was acquitted of that. You can’t get a new trial just because the ultimate outcome of that crime changed.

Would it be rude of me to suggest that some folks (not me, I couldn’t care less, but some people) might have appreciated certain elements of the OP being enclosed in spoiler tags?

I apologize: I somehow didn’t see the big-ass “SPOILER” in thread title!

Bricker, who wrote a Staff Report about Double Jeopardy, had this to say about Fracture in another thread.

[spoiler]In Fracture, Hopkins’ character, Ted Crawford, is acquitted of the attempted murder of his wife; he shot her but she survives in a coma. He then uses his standing as next-of-kin to remove her from life support, and she dies. He reasons he’s safe from re-prosecution because of the double jeopardy clause.

However, new evidence comes to light - specifically, the bullet that was in her body and could not have been removed without killing her. The prosecutor, Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling), decides to charge Crawford with murder - a different crime than “attempted murder” - which theoretically dodges the double jeopardy problem. Bingo, unrepentant killer gets what’s coming to him.

Only… not.

In real life, Crawford would be safe from reprosecution because of Ashe v. Swenson’s collateral estoppel rule, discussed above. The original trial ended in the film with a directed verdict, which operates just as an acquittal would have. That means the state is collaterally estopped from re-litigating any element of the murder that they had tried, and failed, to prove in the attempted murder trial.[/spoiler]

If Fracture were legally correct, then it seems you could charge someone with murder, lose, then charge them with manslaughter, then negligent homicide, then assault, and so on, until you get a successful trial. Since that clearly isn’t the case…

Almost. If Fracture were legally correct, you could charge someone with assault first, then battery, then manslaughter, etc. all the way up to capital murder. Losing one case would not preclude a charge of the next HIGHER case…

Bricker’s staff report
What happens if you confess to a crime after being found not guilty? (6-Mar-2007)

Discussion of movie Fracture
[post=8530296] Double jeopardy[/post]

x-ray vision, why did you put Bricker’s answer in a spoiler box in this thread?

Would it make a difference if he were found guilty of the lesser crime and then charged with the greater crime after the victim dies? I ask because we have something like that happening in PA.

In 1966 a crook shot and paralyzed a cop. He spent a long time in prison for attempted murder as a result. The (former) cop recently died, and the (former) crook is now being charged with the cop’s murder. It seems odd, but I’m no lawyer.