Double Jeopardy

Double Jeopardy

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution states that no person shall be subject to for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb. This provision, also known as the Double Jeopardy Clause, prohibits state and federal governments from prosecuting individuals for the same crime on more than one occasion and also prohibits imposing more than one punishment for a single offense. This same premise is also a part of the Florida Constitution, Article 1, section 9.

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In Kenneth Robinson v. State of Florida, the defendant appealed his conviction of solicitation of murder and kidnapping to the Fifth District Court of Appeal. Prior to this conviction, defendant was accused of sexual battery of a thirteen year old girl. While awaiting prosecution for the sexual battery, prosecution obtained DNA evidence to use in the prosecution. Shortly thereafter, Defendant solicited another inmate, who was to be released, to kidnap and murder the thirteen year old victim who was to testify against him. That inmate turned this information over to law enforcement. Defendant was acquitted of the sexual battery charges largely in part because the prosecution failed to procure the DNA evidence in a timely manner. The DNA evidence showed a definitive DNA match between Defendant and evidence taken from the victim and that the probability of matching the DNA to someone other than the Defendant was one in 120 quadrillion. Thus, the only evidence presented in the sexual battery case was the testimony from the victim.

After his acquittal on the sexual battery charges, Defendant was then charged with solicitation of murder and kidnapping. The evidence against Defendant in the solicitation trial included a recording between the inmate/informant and Defendant which discussed the details.

At the trial for the solicitation and murder, the DNA evidence originally obtained to prosecute the sexual battery case was introduced to the jury for the limited purpose of establishing motive. Defendant appealed the use of this evidence of the basis that he was acquitted of the sexual battery charge and that by introducing evidence from the acquitted crime would violate the Fifth Amendment’s double jeopardy provision. Defense counsel failed to make an objection to the DNA evidence on Fifth Amendment grounds, therefore, the issue was not preserved for appeal. Notwithstanding that error, the appellate court conducted an analysis of applicable case law.

Evidentiary considerations with double jeopardy issues

Florida case law states that the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment does not forbid the admission of all evidence of acquitted collateral crimes, but only evidence which the state is collaterally estopped from introducing. Florida law forbids the admission in a subsequent trial of evidence of an acquitted collateral crime only when the prior verdict clearly decided in the Defendant’s favor the issue for which the admission is sought. The DNA evidence taken in preparation for the prosecution of the sexual battery was taken in order to prove Defendant was the perpetrator of the crime. However, it was not submitted to the jury. The evidence was introduced in the solicitation and murder case for the limited purpose of establishing motive. The appellate court held that because the issue of which admission was sought was not decided by the prior acquittal, there was no double jeopardy violation when the DNA evidence was admitted only for the limited purpose of establishing motive.

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution states that no person shall be subject to for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb. This provision, also known as the Double Jeopardy Clause, prohibits state and federal governments from prosecuting individuals for the same crime on more than one occasion and also prohibits imposing more than one punishment for a single offense. This same premise is also a part of the Florida Constitution, Article 1, section 9.

In Kenneth Robinson v. State of Florida, the defendant appealed his conviction of solicitation of murder and kidnapping to the Fifth District Court of Appeal. Prior to this conviction, defendant was accused of sexual battery of a thirteen year old girl. While awaiting prosecution for the sexual battery, prosecution obtained DNA evidence to use in the prosecution. Shortly thereafter, Defendant solicited another inmate, who was to be released, to kidnap and murder the thirteen year old victim who was to testify against him. That inmate turned this information over to law enforcement. Defendant was acquitted of the sexual battery charges largely in part because the prosecution failed to procure the DNA evidence in a timely manner. The DNA evidence showed a definitive DNA match between Defendant and evidence taken from the victim and that the probability of matching the DNA to someone other than the Defendant was one in 120 quadrillion. Thus, the only evidence presented in the sexual battery case was the testimony from the victim.

After his acquittal on the sexual battery charges, Defendant was then charged with solicitation of murder and kidnapping. The evidence against Defendant in the solicitation trial included a recording between the inmate/informant and Defendant which discussed the details.

At the trial for the solicitation and murder, the DNA evidence originally obtained to prosecute the sexual battery case was introduced to the jury for the limited purpose of establishing motive. Defendant appealed the use of this evidence of the basis that he was acquitted of the sexual battery charge and that by introducing evidence from the acquitted crime would violate the Fifth Amendment’s double jeopardy provision. Defense counsel failed to make an objection to the DNA evidence on Fifth Amendment grounds, therefore, the issue was not preserved for appeal. Notwithstanding that error, the appellate court conducted an analysis of applicable case law.

Evidentiary considerations with double jeopardy issues

Florida case law states that the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment does not forbid the admission of all evidence of acquitted collateral crimes, but only evidence which the state is collaterally estopped from introducing. Florida law forbids the admission in a subsequent trial of evidence of an acquitted collateral crime only when the prior verdict clearly decided in the Defendant’s favor the issue for which the admission is sought. The DNA evidence taken in preparation for the prosecution of the sexual battery was taken in order to prove Defendant was the perpetrator of the crime. However, it was not submitted to the jury. The evidence was introduced in the solicitation and murder case for the limited purpose of establishing motive. The appellate court held that because the issue of which admission was sought was not decided by the prior acquittal, there was no double jeopardy violation when the DNA evidence was admitted only for the limited purpose of establishing motive.