The United States Supreme Court this morning granted cert in an interesting criminal law case that will determine the future of criminal law in Tampa Bay, Florida, especially when a Court is confused (just blame the attorneys) as to the elements of the charged offense. At the close of the prosecution’s dull case during a trial, a St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Lawyer will ask, well beg really, the trial court for what is known as a directed verdict or judgment of acquittal (JOA).
The Supreme Court will look at a case where the trial court issued a JOA at the close of the prosecution’s case, but the trial court misapplied or misunderstood the elements of the offense in granting the Defense motion. The prosecution wants to retry the Defendant, damn them, so the Supreme Court must determine if a retrial by the prosecution is barred on double jeopardy grounds even though the JOA was granted by the court on misunderstood elements of the charged offense (go ahead, blame the lawyers for confusing an honest judge).
The elements of a criminal offense are the facts that must be proven to sustain a verdict. Life is so unfair, as our Judges in Tampa Bay, Florida know all too well the elements and even add a few now and then no matter how much a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer tries to confuse, spin or alter the law.
Having been a prosecutor and a defense attorney it seems to me that a directed verdict should be final as it’s unfair to try the Defendant twice on the same set of facts.
|A Lawyer argues for a JOA|
Here are some of the facts of the case: Lamar Evans was charged by the state of Michigan with arson or “burning other real property” for his role in starting a fire in a vacant house. At the conclusion of the prosecutions’ case his lawyer moved for a directed verdict, arguing –apparently with the sly defense attorney’s fingers crossed – that a necessary element of the burning of other real property is that the building was not a dwelling, and that the prosecution’s evidence proved that the building burned in his case was a dwelling.
The court agreed, granting defendant’s motion. The state appealed and the Michigan Supreme Court held that the trial court was mistaken — the prosecution was not required to prove that the building was not a dwelling. And under these specific circumstances, the court held that if the trial court grants a defendant’s motion for a directed verdict on the basis of an error of law, an error that did not resolve any factual element of the charged offense — the trial court’s ruling does not constitute an acquittal for the purposes of double jeopardy and retrial is therefore not barred. Evans v. Michigan, No. 11-1327.