What really is double jeopardy (lega) really?

Reference this case http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/03/18/virginia.killer.letter/index.html ?

Big news over here in the DC area these days. Short summary, all around not-a-nice guy kills one sister, rapes the other and gets caught. Prosecutors try him for capital murder but fail to show just cause for execution (by Virginia standards) and bad guy is given life in jail instead. Once in jail mensa candidate of the year bad guy writes a letter to the victims family detailing what he did in gory detail cause, well, he’s a lovely fellow. Prosecutor’s get a hold of the letter and use the new details contained therein to now retry the bad guy and successfully convict (right term?) the bad guy of capital murder. Bad guy claims double jeopardy all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States who deny his appeal.

I get confused by what is and what is not considered double jeopardy. Don’t get me wrong, this guy is worthless but does it not seem he is being tried twice? The way capital murder cases go in VA seems kind of weird, he was basically found innocent of capital murder but not regular murder, or maybe I’m wrong.

And while I’m at it, I never did understand how the Rodney King cases were legit either. I understand they charged the cops with a different offense, which seemed like the exact same offense just with “race” thrown in the title. Is double jeopardy now one of those things where you can’t use it, unless you really really want to, then we make it happen?

edit:: bah I don’t know how to edit the title, should read (legal)

IANAL, but I believe some kinds of new evidence can result in a (legal) new trial in double-jeopardy cases.

Hmm Iit would be interesting to hear the prosecutor’s grounds in more detail beyond the new evidence in the killer’s letter. Perhaps what happened is he was tried and convicted for life on the murder, but there was another capital crime committed (possibly the rape) that was not among the original charges.

I know you can’t be tried again after being acquitted or re-sentenced after a sentence is in place from a convition. Charles Manson was originally sentenced to Death in California, but when the death penalty was banned his sentence was changed to life in prison (with possibility of parole - not that he’ll ever get it), and when California re-instituted the death penalty it would be double jeopardy to give him death again, even though that was the original sentence.

And of course, I am not a Lawyer, I am not Your Lawyer, You are not My Client, yadda yadda…

This being the DC area, might there be multiple jurisdictions involved? Like, Virginia couldn’t get anything to stick, but now Maryland is? Or the Feds, if some element of the crime were committed in the District itself?

The Rodney King case was first the state filing charges, and then the feds coming in later with the civil rights charges. I’m assuming that was part of why they could be charged again.

Powell was originally tried for capital murder for the murder of Stacie Reed during the attempted rape of her sister, Kristie Reed. The Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the two crimes were separate and threw out the capital murder conviction. After his conviction was overturned, he wrote his abhorrent letter admitting to the attempted rape of Stacie as well, thinking he was legally in the clear. When he admitted to the attempted rape of Stacie, prosecutors had a new way to charge him that didn’t run afoul of the same problems.

Hopefully this is on topic enough- This reminds me of a question I’ve thought of sometimes. Say a person kills a few people in a killing spree. Is there anything stopping prosecutors from trying him for killing one of the people, but not the others yet, as sort of an insurance policy against screwing up somehow, or running into a brilliant defense strategy? And if the killer is acquitted, they just try him for another one of the murders, this time having seen their defense?

From this more complete article.

It appears that he was originally convicted of the murder of a 16-year-old combined with the rape of her younger sister. He was charged that way to make it a capital crime. On appeal, a court ruled that they were separate crimes, so his original death sentence was quashed. He then revealed that he killed the older girl after she had refused to have sex with him. So the new charge was her murder combined with the attempted rape of her – a new capital crime, even though arising out of the same events. Even though it’s in the same jurisdiction, and it’s the same murder, the combination with a different (attempted) rape makes it a new crime, as far as I can see (though I’m not a lawyer, or course).

From the article:
*… The state’s highest court eventually threw out the 2000 verdict in the first trial, saying prosecutors had not proven other necessary death-eligible offenses were committed against the 16-year-old. Such “aggravating” factors could include, rape, attempted rape or robbery in commission of the murder.

The sexual assault and attempted murder of Stacie’s younger sister was upheld, and Powell was given a long prison sentence.

Powell, believing he was free from execution, proceeded to write a taunting, profanity-filled letter from behind bars to Ebert, laying out explicit details of the crime unknown to investigators at the time. …

With this firsthand account from Powell, he was indicted again and charged with murder and attempted rape of Stacie – a capital-eligible crime. He again was convicted, and federal and state courts subsequently upheld the conviction on appeal.*

So it looks like he was convicted, the conviction for one (capital) murder was overturned, but he was doing life on the other charge. Usually, a conviction overturned means the state has to hold a new trial because the old one was flawed. This happens all the time. The bozo was just stupid enough to put enough in writing to make the second trial easier, by thinking he was immune.

The only way double jeopardy would apply is if a jury (or judge) found him innocent. Then, this is a final judgement. I suppose the appeal court could have substituted an “innocent” verdict, but usually they leave that sort of thing up to the retrial.

So the headline should read “Moron To Be Executed”.

The main issue there is “right to a speedy trial”. If the prosecutor has the evidence to charge you, but takes their time, they could lose on those grounds.

No, I think double jeopardy also applies if you are found guilty on the first prosecution. For example, if he’d been found guilty on the first charges, but had been given a light sentence (perhaps because of extenuating circumstances), the state can’t come back later to prosecute again in the hop of getting a harsher sentence.

The thing here is that it’s a different crime, even though it arises out of the same events.

It’s possible. Andrea Yates was charged with the deaths of only three of the five children that she drowned.

Basically double jeopardy applies to one level of government. In the USA we have state and federal. In the Rodney King case, the state tried them and they were found “not guilty” but the federal government also had an opportunity to try them because as police officers they fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. The second trial was for a violation of Mr King’s civil rights.

An ordinary Joe like you or me wouldn’t have fallen under that. We wouldn’t be brought to trial for violating someone’s civil rights. Though it’s technically possible in some places.

Double jeopardy prevents retrial on similar type charges for the same crime. Key word being similar. For example if you are tried for muder-1 and found “not guilty,” they can’t go back and retry you for manslaughter.

Of course the jury can be offered the option of multiple verdicts for the same trial. For example the jury can find someone “not guilty” of murder-1 and guilty of manslaughter if both charges are brought at the same trial.

Double Jeopardy does not apply in certain instances:

First is fraud. If you bribe the judge and jury and they find you “not guilty,” the double jeopardy clause won’t save you from a retrial.

Second is different jurisdictions. This can be federal/state or even if a man standing on State Line Road in Calumet City, IL, shot a guy standing on the other side of the street in Hammond, IN and killed him. Both Illinois and Indiana can try him. You could also be tried in a military court and a state court.

Third, double jeopardy doesn’t apply to civil cases. This is why OJ was retried in a civil suit and found responsible. The burden of proof in civil cases is much less.

Double jeopardy does not also apply for non-final judgements. A mistrial is not double jeopardy because it doesn’t end in aquittal or conviction. Cases that are dismissed are a bit complex. Depending on the case and HOW it’s dismissed, sometime the person can be retried and sometimes appeals courts have ruled, the dismissal was in fact a “Final” judgement and the person cannot be retried.

Aha… so it is this? They tried to give him the death penalty because rape with murder is a capital crime. The court said that murdering one person and then raping a second a bit later is not what the capital “rape and murder” law meant. Now they had him admitting to attempting to rape, then murdering, one girl. They did not know he had attempted to rape her too. His previous murder conviction for her murder was thrown out, so they were free to re-charge him, and now they had evidence he had committed capital rape-and-murder on her.

Yep, that’s it in a nutshell. I ran across the full text of his letter on another website - he’s a textbook arrogant, narcissitic, conscienceless psychopath.

Double jeopardy means that you may not be tried twice for the same offense by th same jurisdiction – that is, if acquitted of committing burglary on January 30 at 8:30 AM at 123 Main Street by the State of East Dakota, East Dakota cannot try you for committing that crime (or any other charges related to those particular putatively-criminal acts) at that time and place. If 123 Main Street was a federal office, there’s grounds for the Feds to try you, and you can certainly be convicted of burglary on Feb 12 at 10:00 PM if you did that.

In this case, he was convicted of a some form of homicide – they just couldn’t prove capital murder until he confessed to it after conviction. AFAIK, that doesn’t trigger double jeopardy.

It still smells a lot like an ends justify the means argument to me.

The actual constitutional statement goes like “[no person shall] be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb”. Like all things constitutional in this age we would need to interpret that meaning, but I could see how this situation would certainly apply. Luckily, I’m not in a position to do that sort of thing but others have.

Incoming wiki quote “If a defendant appeals a conviction and is successful in having it overturned, they are subject to retrial. An exception arises if the verdict is overturned on the grounds of evidentiary insufficiency, rather than on the grounds of procedural faults. As noted above, if the trial court made a determination of evidentiary insufficiency, the determination would constitute a final acquittal;” Would this cover the case where his capital case was tossed for insufficient evidence to show cause for execution?

Keep in mind, he was found guilty of murder.

Also, here comes another one “n Arizona v. Rumsey, 467 U.S. 203 (1984), it was ruled that in a bench trial, when a judge was holding a separate hearing after the jury trial, to decide if the defendant should be sentenced to death or life imprisonment, the judge decided that the circumstances of the case did not permit death to be imposed. On appeal the judge’s ruling was found to be erroneous. However, even though the decision to impose life instead of death was based on an erroneous interpretation of the law by the judge, the conclusion of life imprisonment in the original case constituted an acquittal of the death penalty and thus death could not be imposed upon a subsequent trial. Even though the acquittal of the death penalty was erroneous in that case, the acquittal must stand.”

Slightly different here, the judges decision to not execute was based on a bad interpretation not an insufficiency of evidence. However, the earlier quotes that insufficiency of evidence carries more double jeopardy (if that makes sense) than procedure problems. That is you can retry for procedural problems but not insufficient evidence.

So the crux of the question - having been convicted, the conviction tossed; can the state file a different set of charges than the original, tossed charges?

Since the result of the appeal is essentially “this trial never happened”( is that what overturned verdict means??) then why not. I suspect amended charges are often refiled, butusually the other way? I.e. it’s not first-degree murder according to the appeal court, so we’re going with a 2nd degree murder charge.

Not exactly - he was found guilty of capital murder, but the evidence wasn’t sufficent to uphold that charge based on the murder of Stacie and the attempted rape of Kristie. When that conviction was overturned, he couldn’t be retried under that same theory, but he could be retried for non-capital first degree murder, so that’s what they set out to do. Before that trial could take place he gave them additional evidence that allowed them to retry him for the murder and attempted rape of Stacie, which is not the same capital murder that he’d originally been charged with.