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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court to Decide Scope of Double Jeopardy When Jury Deadlocks on Lesser Charge

Posted Oct 11, 2011 11:52 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme has agreed to decide whether a defendant may be retried for first-degree and capital murder after a jury deadlocks on the lesser included offense of manslaughter.

At issue is the scope of the ban on double jeopardy, SCOTUSblog reports.

The Arkansas defendant, Alex Blueford, was accused of killing his girlfriend’s 20-month-old son, the Associated Press reports. The judge presiding over Blueford’s case had instructed jurors to consider charges of capital murder, first-degree murder, manslaughter and negligent homicide. The judge said jurors should consider the most serious charge first, and if they unanimously found the defendant not guilty, they should consider the next lesser offense, continuing down the list, SCOTUSblog says.

The forewoman told the judge the jury had voted unanimously against the charges of capital murder and first-degree murder, and had deadlocked on manslaughter. The court declared a mistrial, but refused to issue a partial verdict of acquittal on the two more serious charges. The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled against Blueford in an interlocutory appeal raising the double jeopardy claim.

SCOTUSblog links to the cert petition (PDF) in the case, Blueford v. Arkansas.

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