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Constitutional Law

Double Jeopardy Precludes Retrial of Woman Prosecuted After Telling Police She Found a Wallet

Posted Jun 8, 2011 10:21 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Deborah Heinrich's saga as an accused criminal reportedly began after she found a wallet last summer that the owner says he had carelessly left atop the pump at a Wyoming gas station.

She called the numbers she found inside, she says, then contacted the police to seek their help in finding the owner. When she balked at turning over the wallet without first hearing from the owner, however, she was arrested for interfering with police, according to the Star-Tribune and KMGH.

Now she has beaten the misdemeanor rap on constitutional grounds in the midst of her second trial.

Although her lawyer sought an acquittal in the first trial last year, a judge in the Natrona County case declared a mistrial. But, as she was being tried for a second time for the alleged crime, another judge held that double jeopardy precluded the prosecution.

Because there was no "manifest necessity" shown for the mistrial, she was being tried twice for the same crime in violation of her constitutional rights, explained Natrona County District Judge Thomas Sullins in a written opinion.

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