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US Supreme Court allows retrial of criminal defendant if tried in wrong district court

by Derek Andrews
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The US Supreme Court docket ruled on Thursday that the US Structure’s Double Jeopardy Clause doesn’t bar the prosecution from retrying a felony defendant whether it is decided that the unique trial venue was improper. In Smith v. US, the court docket discovered that “the strongest acceptable treatment for trial error is a brand new trial, not a judgment barring reprosecution.”

The court docket has a long-standing rule that, at any time when “a defendant obtains a reversal of a previous, unhappy conviction, he could also be retried within the regular course of occasions.” In Smith v. US, the court docket discovered that points involving the Venue and Vicinage Clauses didn’t quantity to violations of that rule—that means felony defendants might nonetheless be retried even when these clauses had been discovered to have been violated.

The Venue Clause mandates that every one felony trials have to be held the place the defendant dedicated the felony acts. Smith argued that the Venue Clause was designed to stop felony defendants from going through the added hurt of reprosecution in one other venue after going through an preliminary prosecution in an improper venue. However the court docket held that “the mere burden of a second trial has by no means justified an exemption from the retrial rule.”

Associated to the Venue Clause, the Vicinage Clause protects felony defendants’ proper to an neutral jury from the placement during which the felony acts had been dedicated. The court docket discovered that Smith’s argument concerning the Vicinage—which echoed that of his Venue Clause argument—offered even much less assist due to the slim scope of the clause. The court docket stated, “There isn’t a motive to conclude that trial earlier than a jury drawn from the unsuitable geographic space calls for a distinct treatment” than the one specified by the long-standing rule.

Setting the backdrop for your complete Smith case is the Double Jeopardy Clause situated underneath the US Structure’s Fifth Modification. The Double Jeopardy Clause protects felony defendants from being prosecuted twice for considerably the identical crime. Right here, Smith argued that permitting the prosecution to retry him on the very same felony case in one other venue invoked the Double Jeopardy Clause, barring the prosecution from continuing within the second, correct venue. The court docket, nevertheless, disagreed. The court docket discovered that the appeal’s court decision on this case, which vacated Smith’s unique conviction within the improper venue, “didn’t adjudicate Smith’s culpability, and thus [did] not set off the Double Jeopardy Clause.”

Federal prosecutors initially indicted Timothy Smith for hacking a Florida firm. Smith was tried in Florida, however he argued that the venue was improper as a result of he lives in Alabama. Even when he might accurately be tried in Florida, Smith argued he was tried within the unsuitable district court docket. The district court docket denied Smith’s movement to dismiss the case based mostly on his declare of improper venue.

Following his conviction, Smith appealed to the US Court docket of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit who discovered that, whereas the unique venue was improper, Smith was not entitled to double jeopardy safety from prosecution in a correct venue. The circuit court docket’s discovering joined with the Sixth, Ninth and Tenth Circuits. In the meantime, the Fifth and Eighth Circuits held that an acquittal is warranted in such circumstances. The Supreme Court docket’s Thursday determination resolves a break up between decrease circuit courts on the matter.

Source / Picture: jurist.org

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