Although many people in Monmouth County may realize that they are protected from double jeopardy, they may not know just what that means. For many people, the idea of double jeopardy means that if they are charged with one crime, say, homicide, and then acquitted, that they cannot later be charged and convicted of the same homicide. While this is certainly true, the protection against double jeopardy can also be much more expansive.
Take the case of a Virginia man who was previously acquitted of reckless handling of a firearm, a misdemeanor charge. He had been arrested following a shooting outside of a nightclub in which someone fired at least 10 rounds into a parked car. When he was brought to trial, however, there was not enough evidence that he had been the shooter and so he was acquitted.
Sometime later, however, he was arrested again and charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder. The problem was, however, that these charges stemmed from the same shooting incident that he had already been found innocent of. Because a previous court was unable to convict him because there was not enough evidence that he had been the shooter, the prosecutor never should have been able to bring the second set of charges, much less get a conviction on them. Fortunately, an appeals court threw out the conviction on the basis of double jeopardy.
While some in New Jersey may wonder why this story is applicable to them, the same rights and protections from double jeopardy protect them as those that protected this Virginia man.
Source: The Associated Press, “Appeals court reverses Surry murder conviction,” Feb. 25, 2014