Reprosecution After Mistrial
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
The common law generally required that the previous trial must have ended in a judgment, of conviction or acquittal, but the constitutional rule is that jeopardy attaches much earlier, in jury trials when the jury is sworn, and in trials before a judge without a jury, when the first evidence is presented.1 Therefore, if after jeopardy attaches the trial is terminated for some reason, it may be that a second trial, even if the termination was erroneous, is barred.2 The reasons the Court has given for fixing the attachment of jeopardy at a point prior to judgment and thus making some terminations of trials before judgment final insofar as the defendant is concerned is that a defendant has a “valued right to have his trial completed by a particular tribunal.” 3 The reason that the defendant’s right is so “valued” is that he has a legitimate interest in completing the trial “once and for all” and “conclud[ing] his confrontation with society,” 4 so as to be spared the expense and ordeal of repeated trials, the anxiety and insecurity of having to live with the possibility of conviction, and the possibility that the prosecution may strengthen its case with each try as it learns more of the evidence and of the nature of the defense.5 These reasons both inform the determination when jeopardy attaches and the evaluation of the permissibility of retrial depending upon the reason for a trial’s premature termination.
A second trial may be permitted where a mistrial is the result of “manifest necessity,” 6 as when, for example, the jury cannot reach a verdict7 or circumstances plainly prevent the continuation of the trial.8 The question of whether there is double jeopardy becomes more difficult, however, when the doctrine of “manifest necessity” is called upon to justify a second trial following a mistrial granted by the trial judge because of some event within the prosecutor’s control or because of prosecutorial misconduct or because of error or abuse of discretion by the judge himself. There must ordinarily be a balancing of the defendant’s right in having the trial completed against the public interest in fair trials designed to end in just judgments.9 Thus, when, after jeopardy attached, a mistrial was granted because of a defective indictment, the Court held that retrial was not barred; a trial judge “properly exercises his discretion” in cases in which an impartial verdict cannot be reached or in which a verdict on conviction would have to be reversed on appeal because of an obvious error. “If an error could make reversal on appeal a certainty, it would not serve ‘the ends of public justice’ to require that the government proceed with its proof when, if it succeeded before the jury, it would automatically be stripped of that success by an appellate court.” 10 On the other hand, when, after jeopardy attached, a prosecutor successfully moved for a mistrial because a key witness had inadvertently not been served and could not be found, the Court held a retrial barred, because the prosecutor knew prior to the selection and swearing of the jury that the witness was unavailable.11 Although this case appeared to establish the principle that an error of the prosecutor or of the judge leading to a mistrial could not constitute a “manifest necessity” for terminating the trial, Somerville distinguished and limited Downum to situations in which the error lends itself to prosecutorial manipulation, in being the sort of instance that the prosecutor could use to abort a trial that was not proceeding successfully and obtain a new trial that would be to his advantage.12
Another kind of case arises when the prosecutor moves for mistrial because of prejudicial misconduct by the defense. In Arizona v. Washington,13 defense counsel in his opening statement made prejudicial comments about the prosecutor’s past conduct, and the prosecutor's motion for a mistrial was granted over defendant’s objections. The Court ruled that retrial was not barred by double jeopardy. Granting that in a strict, literal sense, mistrial was not “necessary” because the trial judge could have given limiting instructions to the jury, the Court held that the highest degree of respect should be given to the trial judge’s evaluation of the likelihood of the impairment of the impartiality of one or more jurors. As long as support for a mistrial order can be found in the trial record, no specific statement of “manifest necessity” need be made by the trial judge.14
Emphasis upon the trial judge’s discretion has an impact upon the cases in which it is the judge’s error, in granting sua sponte a mistrial or granting the prosecutor’s motion. The cases are in doctrinal disarray. Thus, in Gori v. United States,15 the Court permitted retrial of the defendant when the trial judge had, on his own motion and with no indication of the wishes of defense counsel, declared a mistrial because he thought the prosecutor’s line of questioning was intended to expose the defendant’s criminal record, which would have constituted prejudicial error. Although the Court thought that the judge’s action was an abuse of discretion, it approved retrial on the grounds that the judge’s decision had been taken for defendant’s benefit. This rationale was disapproved in the next case, in which the trial judge discharged the jury erroneously and in abuse of his discretion, because he disbelieved the prosecutor’s assurance that certain witnesses had been properly apprised of their constitutional rights.16 Refusing to permit retrial, the Court observed that the “doctrine of manifest necessity stands as a command to trial judges not to foreclose the defendant’s option [to go to the first jury and perhaps obtain an acquittal] until a scrupulous exercise of judicial discretion leads to the conclusion that the ends of public justice would not be served by a continuation of the proceedings.” 17 The later cases appear to accept Jorn as an example of a case where the trial judge “acts irrationally or irresponsibly.” But if the trial judge acts deliberately, giving prosecution and defense the opportunity to explain their positions, and according respect to defendant’s interest in concluding the matter before the one jury, then he is entitled to deference. This approach perhaps rehabilitates the result if not the reasoning in Gori and maintains the result and much of the reasoning of Jorn.18
Of course, “a motion by the defendant for mistrial is ordinarily assumed to remove any barrier to reprosecution, even if the defendant’s motion is necessitated by a prosecutorial or judicial error.” 19 “Such a motion by the defendant is deemed to be a deliberate election on his part to forgo his valued right to have his guilt or innocence determined before the first trier of fact.” 20 In United States v. Dinitz,21 the trial judge had excluded defendant’s principal attorney for misbehavior and had then given defendant the option of recess while he appealed the exclusion, a mistrial, or continuation with an assistant defense counsel. Holding that the defendant could be retried after he chose a mistrial, the Court reasoned that, although the exclusion might have been in error, it was not done in bad faith to goad the defendant into requesting a mistrial or to prejudice his prospects for acquittal. The defendant’s choice, even though difficult, to terminate the trial and go on to a new trial should be respected and a new trial not barred. To hold otherwise would necessitate requiring the defendant to shoulder the burden and anxiety of proceeding to a probable conviction followed by an appeal, which if successful would lead to a new trial, and neither the public interest nor the defendant’s interests would thereby be served.
But the Court has also reserved the possibility that the defendant’s motion might be necessitated by prosecutorial or judicial overreaching motivated by bad faith or undertaken to harass or prejudice, and in those cases retrial would be barred. It was unclear what prosecutorial or judicial misconduct would constitute such overreaching,22 but, in Oregon v. Kennedy,23 the Court adopted a narrow “intent” test, so that “[o]nly where the governmental conduct in question is intended to ‘goad’ the defendant into moving for a mistrial may a defendant raise the bar of double jeopardy to a second trial after having succeeded in aborting the first on his own motion.” Therefore, ordinarily, a defendant who moves for or acquiesces in a mistrial is bound by his decision and may be required to stand for retrial.
- The rule traces back to United States v. Perez, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 579 (1824). See also Kepner v. United States, 195 U.S. 100 (1904); Downum v. United States, 372 U.S. 734 (1963) (trial terminated just after jury sworn but before any testimony taken). In Crist v. Bretz, 437 U.S. 28 (1978), the Court held this standard of the attachment of jeopardy was “at the core” of the clause and it therefore binds the States. But see id. at 40 (Justice Powell dissenting). An accused is not put in jeopardy by preliminary examination and discharge by the examining magistrate, Collins v. Loisel, 262 U.S. 426 (1923), by an indictment which is quashed, Taylor v. United States, 207 U.S. 120, 127 (1907), or by arraignment and pleading to the indictment. Bassing v. Cady, 208 U.S. 386, 391–92 (1908). A defendant may be tried after preliminary proceedings that present no risk of final conviction. E.g., Ludwig v. Massachusetts, 427 U.S. 618, 630–32 (1976) (conviction in prior summary proceeding does not foreclose trial in a court of general jurisdiction, where defendant has absolute right to demand a trial de novo and thus set aside the first conviction); Swisher v. Brady, 438 U.S. 204 (1978) (double jeopardy not violated by procedure under which masters hear evidence and make preliminary recommendations to juvenile court judge, who may confirm, modify, or remand).
- Cf. United States v. Jorn, 400 U.S. 470 (1971); Downum v. United States, 372 U.S. 734 (1963). “Even if the first trial is not completed, a second prosecution may be grossly unfair. It increases the financial and emotional burden on the accused, prolongs the period in which he is stigmatized by an unresolved accusation of wrongdoing, and may even enhance the risk that an innocent defendant may be convicted. The danger of such unfairness to the defendant exists whenever a trial is aborted before it is completed. Consequently, as a general rule, the prosecutor is entitled to one, and only one, opportunity to require an accused to stand trial.” Arizona v. Washington, 434 U.S. 497, 503–05 (1978).
- Wade v. Hunter, 336 U.S. 684, 689 (1949).
- United States v. Jorn, 400 U.S. 470, 486 (1971) (plurality opinion).
- Arizona v. Washington, 434 U.S. 497, 503–05 (1978); Crist v. Bretz, 437 U.S. 28, 35–36 (1978). See Westen & Drubel, Toward a General Theory of Double Jeopardy, 1978 Sup. Ct. Rev. 81, 86–97.
- United States v. Perez, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 579, 580 (1824).
- United States v. Perez, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 579 (1824); Logan v. United States, 144 U.S. 263 (1892). See Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766 (2010) (in a habeas review case, discussing the broad deference given to trial judge's decision to declare a mistrial because of jury deadlock). See also, Yeager v. United States, 557 U.S. 110, 118 (2009); Blueford v. Arkansas, 566 U.S. 599 (2012) (reprosecution for a greater offense allowed following jury deadlock on a lesser included offense).
- Simmons v. United States, 142 U.S. 148 (1891) (juror’s impartiality became questionable during trial); Thompson v. United States, 155 U.S. 271 (1884) (discovery during trial that one of the jurors had served on the grand jury that had indicted defendant and was therefore disqualified); Wade v. Hunter, 336 U.S. 684 (1949) (court-martial discharged because enemy advancing on site).
- Illinois v. Somerville, 410 U.S. 458, 463 (1973).
- 410 U.S. at 464.
- Downum v. United States, 372 U.S. 734 (1963).
- Illinois v. Somerville, 410 U.S. 458, 464–65, 468–69 (1973).
- 434 U.S. 497 (1978).
- “Manifest necessity” characterizes the burden the prosecutor must shoulder in justifying retrial. 434 U.S. at 505–06. But “necessity” cannot be interpreted literally; it means rather a “high degree” of necessity, and some instances, such as hung juries, easily meet that standard. Id. at 506–07. In a situation like that presented in this case, great deference must be paid to the trial judge’s decision because he was in the best position to determine the extent of the possible bias, having observed the jury’s response, and to respond by the course he deems best suited to deal with it. Id. at 510–14. Here, “the trial judge acted responsibly and deliberately, and accorded careful consideration to respondent’s interest in having the trial concluded in a single proceeding. . . . [H]e exercised ‘sound discretion.’ . . .” Id. at 516.
- 367 U.S. 364 (1961). See also United States v. Tateo, 377 U.S. 463 (1964) (reprosecution permitted after the setting aside of a guilty plea found to be involuntary because of coercion by the trial judge).
- United States v. Jorn, 400 U.S. 470, 483 (1971).
- 400 U.S. at 485. The opinion of the Court was by a plurality of four, but two other Justices joined it after first arguing that jurisdiction was lacking to hear the government’s appeal.
- Arizona v. Washington, 434 U.S. 497, 514, 515–16 (1978). See also Illinois v. Somerville, 410 U.S. 458, 462, 465–66, 469–71 (1973) (discussing Gori and Jorn.)
- United States v. Jorn, 400 U.S. 470, 485 (1971) (plurality opinion).
- United States v. Scott, 437 U.S. 82, 93 (1978).
- 424 U.S. 600 (1976). See also Lee v. United States, 432 U.S. 23 (1977) (defendant’s motion to dismiss because the information was improperly drawn made after opening statement and renewed at close of evidence was functional equivalent of mistrial and when granted did not bar retrial, Court emphasizing that defendant by his timing brought about foreclosure of opportunity to stay before the same trial).
- Compare United States v. Dinitz, 424 U.S. 600, 611 (1976), with United States v. Tateo, 377 U.S. 463, 468 n.3 (1964).
- 456 U.S. 667, 676 (1982). The Court thought a broader standard requiring an evaluation of whether acts of the prosecutor or the judge prejudiced the defendant would be unmanageable and would be counterproductive because courts would be loath to grant motions for mistrials knowing that reprosecution would be barred. Id. at 676–77. The defendant had moved for mistrial after the prosecutor had asked a key witness a prejudicial question. Four Justices concurred, noting that the question did not constitute overreaching or harassment and objecting both to the Court’s reaching the broader issue and to its narrowing the exception. Id. at 681.
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