Federal prosecutors say they want to retry Larry Inman. He was found not guilty on one charge, but the jury couldn’t decide two other charges.
Judge Robert Jonker has made some off-handed comments about things. For example, he wondered out loud if being found not guilty on one charge precludes you from being retried on other charges based on constitutional double jeopardy grounds.
The answer to that is no. The U.S. Supreme Court answered the issue in the United States v. Yeager case. The court said that when there is a mixed verdict of a mistrial in some counts and not guilty in others, the prosecution can retry as long as the factual issues decided by the acquittal don’t necessarily also decide the issues in the unresolved charges.
So here’s an analogy. A robbery occurs. The defendant is charged with robbery, and with possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony. The jury finds the defendant not guilty of robbery, but they’re unable to reach a verdict on possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony. In that case, retrying the defendant on the possession of a firearm during a felony charge is barred by double jeopardy laws. That’s because you can’t be in possession of a firearm during a felony if the underlying felony didn’t happen.
Unfortunately for Lawmaker Larry, his not guilty verdict is not intertwined with the other charges. He was acquitted of lying to the FBI. But you can be guilty of bribery and extortion without lying to the FBI about it. So the Yeager decision doesn’t do anything for Larry Inman.
Jonker’s suggestion also doesn’t have any common sense to it. That the prosecution should have to hedge their bets over what charges to bring in every case so as not to risk the jury reaches a not guilty on one of them. The purpose of double jeopardy laws is to prevent the state from harassing a defendant with an endless string of juries. Double jeopardy laws are not meant to allow a defendant to evade justice when a mistrial occurs; otherwise, a mistrial would always be another form of acquittal in all cases.
It sounds like the judge is complicating the case. If the jury picked up on Jonker’s indifference, or bias if that’s what it is, that could explain their inability to reach a verdict. The judge is a George W. Bush appointee, and Larry Inman is a Republican (at least on paper). Despite the seemingly clear evidence, the prosecution may have an uphill battle with the tone the judge appears to be setting in the case.