The US Supreme Court [official website] granted certiorari [order list, PDF] Monday in Evans v. Michigan [docket; cert. petition, PDF] to determine whether the double jeopardy clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] bars retrial after the trial judge erroneously holds a particular fact to be an element of the offense and then grants a midtrial directed verdict of acquittal because the prosecution failed to prove that fact. The defendant burned a vacant house and was charged with burning other real property in violation of the Michigan statute [MCL 750.73, text]. The trial court hearing the case added an additional element to the state law requiring the prosecution to prove that the burned house was a dwelling. Failing to do so, the trial court granted defendant's motion for a directed verdict and entered an order of acquittal, dismissing the case. The Supreme Court of Michigan reversed [opinion] the lower court's decision, reasoning that this case does not involve giving the prosecution a second opportunity to present evidence that it could have in the first proceeding. Rather, this case involves a situation in which the trial court made a legal error requiring additional elements that were not necessary for a conviction. The court concluded that precluding an appeal would deprive the public "of its valued right to 'one complete opportunity to convict those who have violated its laws.'"
The court also granted certiorari in Amgen Inc. v. Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds [docket; cert. petition, PDF] to address an issue involving a misrepresentation case under Securities and Exchange Commission Rule 10b-5 [text]. The questions are whether the district court must require proof of materiality before certifying a plaintiff class based on the fraud-on-the-market theory and whether a defendant should be given the opportunity to rebut such presumption at the class certification stage. The plaintiff, Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds (CRPTF) [official website] filed a security fraud action against Amgen Inc. [corporate website], a biotechnology company, for misstating and failing to disclose safety information about two products it sold. The district court certified the action as a class action under Rule 23(b)(3) [Cornell LII backgrounder]. It also held that fraud-on-the-market presumption was demonstrated by CRPTF. Before the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] the defendant argued that the plaintiffs did not prove that the alleged false statement were material and thus, could not have invoked presumption. The court, however, ruled [opinion] that the only elements plaintiff had to prove at the class certification stage are whether the market for stock was efficient and whether the information was public thereby affirming the district court's decision.
The court also issued a summary opinion [text, PDF] in Parker v. Matthews [docket]. The court reversed the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] decision in a two-murder case from 1981. The district court found the defendant guilty of all charges for killing his mother-in-law and his wife and sentenced him to death. The Kentucky Supreme Court [official website] affirmed. However, the court of appeals reversed that decision granting the defendant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus [28 USC Section 2254, Cornell LII backgrounder]. The Supreme Court held that the lower court did not have the authority to issue such writ under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) [text]. It held that "the court's decision is a textbook example" of what the AEDPA proscribes: "'using federal habeas corpus review as a vehicle to second-guess the reasonable decisions of state courts."