What about double jeopardy?

In this NY Times article, it was said that Avants could be tried for murder again because it was committed on federal property.


Well, one can’t be tried for breaking the same law in the same incident twice, but if one broke a state law and a federal law with the same act one could be tried for each violating each law separtaly.

The principle of double jeopardy means that one cannot be tried for the same crime twice by the same sovereign. Under our federal system, the state and the federal government are each sovereigns.

The OP’s question was “why?” Why can’t you be tried twice for breaking the same state law with one act, but you can be tried once by a federal court and once by a state court for an act which is violative of both federal and state law?

Er… hit a key that I shouldn’t have - I guess I suffer from premature posting. But I see that slipster has handled the explanation perfectly.

By the way, a tip of the hat to DreadCthulhu for referring to breaking the same law in the same incident. In movies and on TV people continually mess this up, suggesting that, say, if one was tried for the murder of a missing person one could then murder the person with impunity if he or she turned up later. The first presumed murder and the second actual murder would be separate incidents.

This is dealt with nicely in an old Cary Grant film, People Will Talk. There Grant befriends a man who served two terms for murdering the same man. After serving a lengthy sentence for murdering a man, he had run into his supposed victim. Realizing that the man had remained in hiding so that he would go to prison for killing him, Grant’s friend flew into a rage and killed the man. He was then tried and sentenced a second time for murder.

People Will Talk is also noteworthy for refuting the old legend that one cannot be tried for murder if the victim’s body cannot be found. Corpus delecti is required for a prosecution to be undertaken, but this refers to the “body” of evidence suggesting a crime has been committed, not to a dead body.

Thanks for the info, guys.

Isn’t that kind of weird since he shouldn’t have been convicted of the first murder? Could he file suit against the government for wrongful imprisonment, even though he later justified it?

He could sue, yes. Could he win? Probably not.

The principle of sovereign immunity generally shields governmental entities from errors made in the course of performing their duties if made in good faith. That is, the government is allowed to make mistakes.

As a practical matter, that pretty well has to be the way it works.

For one thing, if agencies were constantly afraid of being held accountable for a mistake, it would be very difficult for some of them to ever do their job. For example, if parole boards could be successfully sued whenever a person out on parole committed a crime, the result could be a virtual abolition of parole as boards would be afraid to give anyone the benefit of a doubt and parole them.

Another important consideration is that a relatively simple action by a government entity can cause enormous harm to a great many people. While this might seem to argue for holding governments accountable for their mistakes, in fact the opposite is true.

Some years ago the U.S. government issued an apology and gave out reparations to Japanese Americans who were interred during World War II. But do you suppose that the reparations given out really compensated people adequately for losing their jobs, their businesses, their homes, their friends, their freedom, their dignity?

Imagine if the U.S. government really gave Japanese Americans who had been affected adequte compensation. And if it ever gave really adequate compensation for allowing slavery, or child labor, or the exploitation of Native Americans, or if it took the rap for not restricting the use of lead and asbestos and coal and tobacco sooner. Our current deficit problems would be but a shadow of a shadow of the debt the government would incur if it ever began taking the rap for all of the mistakes it has made.