Supreme Court hears double jeopardy case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; briefs] Monday in Yeager v. United States [oral arguments transcript, PDF], in which the Court will consider whether a criminal defendant can face new prosecution for counts on which a jury did not reach a verdict but that are related to other counts of which the defendant has been acquitted. Petitioner F. Scott Yeager was a former Enron [JURIST news archive] executive who was charged with wire fraud, securities fraud, insider trading, money laundering, and conspiracy to engage in securities fraud and wire fraud. A jury acquitted Yeager of the conspiracy, securities fraud, and wire fraud charges, but failed to reach a verdict on the insider trading and money laundering charges. Prosecutors then issued another indictment charging Yeager with money laundering and insider trading. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed [opinion, PDF] the district court's denial of Yeager's motion to dismiss the charges. There has been a circuit split on whether such a prosecution violates the Double Jeopardy Clause [LII backgrounder] of the Fifth Amendment. At oral arguments, counsel for Yeager argued that, "Unlike acquittals, hung counts are not verdicts. They decide nothing, and therefore a hung count cannot be inconsistent with an acquittal." Counsel for the state argued:

[T]he government may, under the doctrine of continuing jeopardy, try to obtain a verdict when a jury is hung. The basic principle there is that the government is entitled to one full and fair opportunity to convict and that the hung counts, when the jury cannot agree, interrupt and prevent the government from achieving that. Double jeopardy therefore does not bar the government from completing its opportunity to obtain a verdict.

 

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