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South Carolina man prosecuted for murder--again

Many people believe that once someone has been tried with a crime that he or she cannot be retried for that same offense because that would be double jeopardy, a violation of the Fifth Amendment. In most cases, this assumption is correct. Under the constitution, people in South Carolina are protected from double jeopardy -- or facing more than one punishment for the same criminal charge. But, there are exceptions to this rule.

One exception occurs when there has been a mistrial. If a jury cannot reach a decision, and declare a verdict, then the case cannot move forward and a mistrial can be declared. If defendants and their criminal defense teams object to the mistrial, then a mistrial can only be declared if it arose from manifest necessity. If there is a valid mistrial, a second trial can occur.

One South Carolina man recently experienced a mistrial. Prosecutors now claim that they will retry the man. In this case, the man supposedly was hired by an elderly husband and wife to do lawn work. According to prosecutors, while the man was working for the couple, he broke into their home to rob them.

During this robbery he also allegedly stabbed and killed both the husband and the wife. Prosecutors claim the family found the two dead inside their home, but the man was not arrested for a month after the alleged crime.

The man was charged with various felonies including a weapons charge, burglary, armed robbery and murder. During his first trial, he was convicted on all the charges but murder and received a 52-year prison sentence. The jury could not come to a decision on the murder charge and a mistrial was declared on that charge.

In this case, and those like it, the facts need to be carefully examined to ensure the man's constitutional rights are being upheld under the double jeopardy laws. When so much is at stake, paying attention to the details is essential.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Prosecutors to retry SC man on murder charges," Aug. 8, 2012

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