SCOTUS to Consider Double Jeopardy Effect of Oral Statement That Jury Would Acquit Defendant of Greater Offense

I posted a few days ago about the possibility that the Supreme Court might take Harrison v. Gillespie, an interesting double jeopardy case out of the Ninth Circuit.  In its orders yesterday, the Court took no action on Harrison, but did grant certiorari in a remarkably similar case, Blueford v. Arkansas, 2011 Ark. 8.  Blueford was charged with capital murder.  At his trial, the jury was also instructed on several lesser-included offenses: first-degree murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide.  After deliberating for some time, the jury announced that it was deadlocked.  In open court, during a colloquy with the judge, the forewoman indicated that the jury was unanimous against capital murder and first-degree murder, but was deadlocked on manslaughter.  The judge sent the jury back to deliberate further, but the jury was still unable to reach an agreement, and a mistrial was declared.

Like Harrison, Blueford presents the question of whether there are any double jeopardy consequences to an informal announcement by a jury that it has agreed to acquit the defendant of a greater offense, but is deadlocked on a lesser-included.  Blueford, in fact, may present the issue even more squarely, at least in the sense that the record seems more clearly to establish an intent to acquit on the greater offense.  In Harrison, the issue is nested within a procedural question as to whether the jurors should have been individually polled on the greater offense before a mistrial was declared.  Maybe that wrinkle is what led the Court to accept Blueford, but leave Harrison pending.  If Blueford loses, I think it would be unlikely that Harrison could win, so deciding Blueford first might save the Court from having to deal with the procedural issue in Harrison.  On the other hand, I suppose that the Court might decide that the form of what counts as an acquittal is governed by state law, in which case subtle differences between Arkansas and Nevada law might conceivably require different double jeopardy results.

Will Court Clarify Mistrial Doctrine?

Among the cases on the Supreme Court’s conference agenda last week was Harrison v. Gillespie, 640 F.3d 888 (9th Cir. 2011).  If the Court decides to take the case, it may have a good opportunity to bring some clarity to the long-mysterious mistrial doctrine, which governs when mistrials have double jeopardy consequences.

The facts of Harrison are quite remarkable.  Convicted of first-degree murder, Harrison faced a capital sentencing hearing.  The jury had four options: death, life without parole, life with parole, or sentence of a term of years.  The jury eventually reported itself deadlocked over the choice between life with and life without, implicitly indicating that it had rejected the death option.  Before the judge dismissed the jury, Harrison requested that the jurors be individually polled as to whether they had rejected death.  The judge refused, declared a mistrial, and turned aside a subsequent attempt by Harrison to strike the death penalty option on double jeopardy grounds.  During habeas proceedings, a panel of the Ninth Circuit overturned this decision, but the en banc court then reversed, exposing Harrison once again to a second capital sentencing proceeding.

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What Must a Defendant Do in Order to Go It Alone?

While awaiting trial on criminal charges in federal court, Michael Campbell wrote the following in a letter to the judge:

Your honor I am asking that John Taylor [Campbell’s court-appointed lawyer] be removed from my case. I am requesting that you appoint another lawyer to complete the process. If not I would like to proceed pro se.

As my Criminal Procedure students have heard me discuss at length, defendants do indeed have a Sixth Amendment right to represent themselves.  Yet, Campbell’s request was not satisfied: Taylor continued to serve as his lawyer through the time of his trial and conviction.  Campbell then raised the issue on appeal, but the Seventh Circuit nonetheless affirmed his conviction earlier this week (United States v. Campbell (No. 10-3002)).  The court held, in effect, that Campbell should have renewed his request to go it alone, rather than sitting quietly throughout the trial as his lawyer continued to represent him.  Continue reading “What Must a Defendant Do in Order to Go It Alone?”

Seventh Circuit Grapples With Knotty Speedy Trial Problems

The Speedy Trial Act normally requires that trial occur within 70 days of arraignment, but Azureeiah O’Connor had to wait 1,229 days.  The Seventh Circuit nonetheless rejected her speedy trial claim last week and affirmed her conviction.  United States v. O’Connor (No. 09-2476).  Along the way, the court addressed a number of noteworthy difficulties.

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