Category Archives: 5th Amendment
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
The prohibition on double jeopardy extends back in human history at least the Roman era. It’s covered in Greek law, the Talmud and of course, English Common Law.
In the United States, the concept of dual sovereignty has been the guiding rule since 1847. The general idea is that the Federal government and the State Governments are both “sovereign” and therefore the prohibition on double jeopardy doesn’t apply. If the State prosecutes a person and then the Federal Government also prosecutes for the same act, the Courts have long held – some thirty-one Justices over 170+ years have expressed their belief in and support for the rule – is just fine.
Now, there are some reasons for the Dual Sovereignty rule. It has long allowed either side to “correct” an injustice, such as happened during the Civil rights era when “people were killed or worse.” And in general, the Feds have only rarely stepped in to charge a person after a state conviction.
But down in Alabama a few years ago (See September 27th Show), a convicted felon on parole was driving a car with a burnt out headlight. Of course, he got stopped. And of course, the Police found the gun he had in his possession. The State of Alabama convicted him for it, and then the Feds stepped in and also convicted him for the same crime.
And that brings us to the Supreme Court hearing in which the Petitioner (Gamble) insists that the Dual Sovereignty component of double Jeopardy should be eliminated. Now… if the Court agrees, he’ll get one sentence or the other. But it is the effect on another possible case that is really the entire reason for this argument.
And that person is Paul Manafort.
In the economic doldrums of the late 1970s, the State of Michigan hit on an idea to take over some land it liked and build a car plant which would create jobs and economic benefit. The people who owned the land weren’t all that thrilled about the idea, nevertheless, the state persisted. Eventually, the Michigan Supreme Court decided that the taking was a legitimate use of eminent domain for economic benefit. Thirty-seven years later, it didn’t turn out to be such a great idea.
The State of Indiana argued yesterday that seizing a person’s car for doing 5mph over the speed limit was not an “excessive fine.” Seriously. That’s not a joke. They really argued that. The Supreme Court didn’t think that it was funny.
In recent days, we have watched the debate over the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice. While the debate rages around things such as abortion, gay rights, women’s rights, and so forth, the single fact remains that these things are rarely the meat and potatoes of what the Supreme Court does. Almost never are those things noticed until after the fact. indeed, very few (if any) questions of any nominee relate to them or to the understanding of how those things might end up affecting our day to day lives. Read the rest of this entry