Merle Denezpi v. United States (Double Jeopardy)

In Summation is back!!!!  After a lengthy hiatus caused by a complex murder trial in New York we have finally returned to provide you with more insights into current legal issues, allowing you to amaze your friends and family with keen insights and deep knowledge.

In this episode, we consider the case(s) of Merle Denezpi.  This was a Supreme Court case decided in the October 2021 term, so alongside the likes of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health and Kennedy v. Bremerton.  Accordingly, it got very little media attention because of the other blockbuster decisions.

But I think the Denezpi case is truly significant, and here is why.  Most Americans have a passing understanding of the concept of double jeopardy.  If for no other reason than there was a 1999 movie with Ashley Judd and Tommie Lee Jones of that name which loosely touched upon the issue…But the basic concept is that the government (be it state or federal) cannot prosecute the same individual multiple times for the same criminal act.  The district attorney cannot bring you to trial, lose, and turn around and charge you again to start the process over.

Denezpi is a Native American, and while on Native American land, he was accused of sexually assaulting a traveling companion.  He was tried in a tribal court, established by the federal government.  He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 140 days jail.  After his sentence was up, he was re-arrested for the exact same actions and put on trial in federal court, where he was then sentenced to 30 years.  That's right 140 days to 30 years.

The question is, was it wrong for the Department of Justice to re-arrest and re-prosecute Denezpi after he had already been convicted and served time for this crime?

Listen to the as Paul explains the legal history of double jeopardy, when does it apply and when has the Supreme Court determined a second prosecution is permissible.

Also a special thanks to Eric Stipe, who has come to take over responsibilities as audio engineer for the show!  Much appreciated.

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