Martinez v. Illinois

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: May 27, 2014
  • Case #: 13-5967
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam
  • Full Text Opinion

Jeopardy attaches when a jury is empanelled and sworn, thus a not-guilty verdict cannot be appealed without subjecting a defendant to double jeopardy.

The state of Illinois was prosecuting Respondent on two criminal charges, which allegedly took place four years prior to the court date. The State had failed to locate its two main witnesses and repeatedly received continuances to delay the trial in order to find them. After months of continuances the trial judge refused to grant further continuances, but invited the State to move to dismiss the case; the State refused and a jury was sworn in. Hearing no evidence from the State, the trial judge granted Respondent’s motion for a directed not-guilty verdict.

The State appealed the verdict, and the appellate court sided with the State, holding that jeopardy did not attach and that the continuance should have been granted. The Illinois Supreme Court granted review on, and affirmed, the jeopardy issue.

The United States Supreme Court overturned the decision, holding that Respondent became subject to jeopardy when the jury was empanelled and sworn, and therefore the not-guilty verdict could not be appealed without subjecting him to double jeopardy. The Supreme Court reasoned that it has long been established, as a bright line rule, that a defendant in a jury trial becomes subject to jeopardy as soon as the jury is chosen and has been sworn in.

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