Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Martinez v. Illinois, Docket 13-5967

Criminal procedure: ne bis in idem: the trial of Esteban Martinez was set to begin on May 17, 2010. His counsel was ready; the State was not. When the court swore in the jury and invited the State to present its first witness, the State declined to present any evidence. So Martinez moved for a directed not-guilty verdict, and the court granted it. The State appealed, arguing that the trial court should have granted its motion for a continuance. The question is whether the Double Jeopardy Clause bars the State’s attempt to appeal in the hope of subjecting Martinez to a new trial.
The Illinois Supreme Court manifestly erred in allowing the State’s appeal, on the theory that jeopardy never attached because Martinez “was never at risk of conviction.” 2013 IL 113475, ¶39, 990 N. E. 2d 215, 224. Our cases have repeatedly stated the bright-line rule that “jeopardy attaches when the jury is empaneled and sworn.” Crist v. Bretz, 437 U. S. 28, 35 (1978); there is simply no doubt that Martinez was subjected to jeopardy. And because the trial court found the State’s evidence insufficient to sustain a conviction, there is equally no doubt that Martinez may not be retried.
“‘The conclusion that jeopardy has attached,’” however, “‘begins, rather than ends, the inquiry as to whether the Double Jeopardy Clause bars retrial.’” Id., at 390. The remaining question is whether the jeopardy ended in such a manner that the defendant may not be retried. See 6 LaFave §25.1(g) (surveying circumstances in which retrial is and is not allowed). Here, there is no doubt that Martinez’s jeopardy ended in a manner that bars his retrial: the trial court acquitted him of the charged offenses. “Perhaps the most fundamental rule in the history of double jeopardy jurisprudence has been that ‘a verdict of acquittal . . . could not be reviewed . . . without putting a defendant twice in jeopardy, and thereby violating the Constitution.’” Martin Linen, supra, at 571; “our cases have defined an acquittal to encompass any ruling that the prosecution’s proof is insufficient to establish criminal liability for an offense.” Evans v. Michigan, 568 U. S. ___, ___ (2013) (slip op., at 4–5). And the trial court clearly made such a ruling here. After the State declined to present evidence against Martinez, his counsel moved for “directed findings of not guilty to both counts,” and the court “granted the motion for a directed finding.” Tr. 21. That is a textbook acquittal: a finding that the State’s evidence cannot support a conviction; “we have emphasized that what constitutes an ‘acquittal’ is not to be controlled by the form of the judge’s action”; it turns on “whether the ruling of the judge, whatever its label, actually represents a resolution . . . of some or all of the factual elements of the offense charged.” Martin Linen, 430 U. S., at 571; see also Evans, supra, at ___ (slip op., at 11) (“Our decision turns not on the form of the trial court’s action, but rather whether it ‘serves’ substantive ‘purposes’ or procedural ones”); United States v. Scott, 437 U. S. 82, 96 (1978) (“We have previously noted that ‘the trial judge’s characterization of his own action cannot control the classification of the action’”); (…) And, critically, the court told the State on the day of trial that it could “move to dismiss its case” before the jury was sworn. Tr. 3. Had the State accepted that invitation, the Double Jeopardy Clause would not have barred it from recharging Martinez. Instead, the State participated in the selection of jurors and did not ask for dismissal before the jury was sworn. When the State declined to dismiss its case, it “‘took a chance, . . . entering upon the trial of the case without sufficient evidence to convict.’” Downum v. United States, 372 U. S. 734, 737 (1963). Here, the State knew, or should have known, that an acquittal forever bars the retrial of the defendant when it occurs after jeopardy has attached (U.S.S.Ct., 27.05.2014, Martinez v. Illinois, Docket 13-5967, Per Curiam).

Un prévenu qui a été acquitté ne peut pas être poursuivi une seconde fois. Pour savoir si une personne a acquis la qualité de prévenu, autrement dit pour savoir si une procédure contre elle a débuté, il s’agit de déterminer à partir de quelle date cette personne a été « mise en examen ». Le terme technique est « jeopardy ». La Constitution fédérale interdit donc d’être en « jeopardy » une seconde fois si la première procédure s’est terminée par un acquittement. Une personne est en « jeopardy » dès que le jury a été constitué et assermenté. Pour déterminer si la première procédure s’est terminée par un acquittement, les termes utilisés dans la décision de justice n’importent pas : c’est le contenu de la décision qu’il s’agit d’analyser pour déterminer si elle équivaut à un acquittement. La jurisprudence de la Cour définit un acquittement comme toute décision établissant que les moyens de preuves de l’accusation sont insuffisants pour condamner. Dans cette affaire, la cour de première instance avait expressément indiqué à l’accusation, qui n’était manifestement pas prête (ses témoins faisant défaut et étant introuvables) qu’elle pouvait demander l’abandon des poursuites avant que le jury ne soit assermenté. Si l’accusation avait accepté cette invitation, un « second » procès aurait pu être mené. Mais comme le jury a été assermenté et que l’accusation a simplement choisi de ne pas participer, un second procès n’était pas constitutionnellement admissible.

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