Thursday, February 23, 2012

A primer

When a jury is impaneled and sworn, the state presents its entire case and rests, and then the district court grants a defense motion to dismiss the case due to the state's failure to present sufficient evidence, that is an acquittal. It matters not what words the defense attorney and district court utter in making that motion and ruling on it. The judge doesn't have to say "acquittal" or "dismissed with prejudice." It sure as heck matters not what words the reporter who covers the day's developments use in a news story. Jeopardy has attached and a fact-finder (the judge) has made a substantive ruling on the merits of the state's case. The ruling cannot be appealed. The defendant cannot be retried. It is an acquittal.


Burt Likko said...

Um... Yeah. Even a civil lawyer not smart enough to figure out how to foist off doing evictions all day on someone else in his firm knows that much.

Is this from your meatworld job, or something in the news?

S said...

That Alabama Honeymoon killer case. After the state rested its case today, the judge granted the defense motion to dismiss the case. I was a tad shocked and appalled at how many people on the interwebs didn't get that this was an acquittal.

Rob Osterman said...

So what's the remedy from a judge abusing this? Or rather what if a judge rules that a case is acquitted but "Any other reasonable observer" can see that some form of defense had to be argued? How do we put that guy behind bars?

Do we have to convict the judge of misconduct first? Or does double jeapordy stop even a retrial/ appeal in the case as well?

I'm picturing a case where Prosecution makes case, but judge has taken massive bribe to toss case anyways. Use we can convict the judge for corruption but does that mean the murderer/ rapist/ other form of bad guy is still "out"?

S said...

Rob, that would certainly be a bad situation, but I am unaware of any mechanism for undoing a not guilty verdict. Maybe there's only no mechanism because this has never been a problem. But I would advocate erring on the side of respecting double jeopardy and settling for going after the judge.

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