Even though the phrase double jeopardy is a common phrase in the criminal lexicon, it is not very common to hear about cases where the term is invoked. Most people would think that the prosecution always has its ducks in a row when charging someone with a crime, or trying to earn a conviction for a crime. But the fact of the matter is that isn’t always true. Sometimes, the prosecution makes mistakes, or acts in an unprofessional or negligent manner that allows the defendant to walk away free.
In a recent case, a man was convicted of first-degree murder stemming from a 2008 shooting. The man was originally charged with a misdemeanor for reckless handling of a firearm as a result of that 2008 incident, but he was acquitted since the prosecution could not prove that the man was the shooter.
But then he was charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder, and he was convicted on these counts. His case went to an appellate court, where a three-judge panel ruled that since he was acquitted of the reckless handling charge due to insufficient proof that he was the shooter, he could not be convicted of murder. The man’s conviction was overturned.
Double jeopardy, though not as common as you would think, is an important clause that protects people from being bullied by the legal system. If you are accused of a crime, you have basic rights that are granted to you. While double jeopardy isn’t necessarily a “right,” it is a legal device that is meant to protect someone from being charged multiple times for the same offense.
Source: WTOP, “Appeals court reverses Surry murder conviction,” Associated Press, Feb. 25, 2014