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Association of Prosecuting Attorneys

Supreme Court Says Double Jeopardy Does Not Protect Against Murder Re-Trial

May 25, 2012
Arkansas may retry a man for murder even though jurors in his first trial were unanimous that he was not guilty, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday. Alex Blueford, who is accused of killing his girlfriend's 1-year-old son, is not protected by the Constitution's Double Jeopardy Clause, the court ruled in a 6 to 3 decision. Because the judge dismissed the jury when it was unable to reach agreement on lesser charges, Blueford was not officially cleared of any of the charges, the majority said, and thus may be retried. "The jury in this case did not convict Blueford of any offense, but it did not acquit him of any either," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote. The decision brought a sharp dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. "Blueford's jury had the option to convict him of capital and first-degree murder, but expressly declined to do so," Sotomayor wrote. "That ought to be the end of the matter." The Double Jeopardy Clause is found in the Constitution's Fifth Amendment and commands that no person shall be "twice put in jeopardy of life or limb" for the same offense.