On February 20, 2013, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Evans v. Michigan. The case considered the scope of the Fifth Amendment’s Double Jeopardy Clause, which protects an acquitted defendant from being retried for the same offense. Here, the question was whether the Double Jeopardy Clause bars a retrial when the trial judge, erroneously believing that a particular fact was an element of the charged offense when it actually was not, directed an acquittal of the defendant because the prosecution had failed to prove the so-called fact.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Sotomayor, the Court held by a vote of 8-1 that the Double Jeopardy Clause bars retrial following a directed verdict of acquittal, even if the trial judge based his decision on erroneous beliefs about the elements of the crime. Chief Justice Roberts, as well as Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan joined the majority opinion. Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion.
To discuss the case, we have William Otis, who is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center and a former federal prosecutor.