SCotUS upholds finality of acquittals

In a per curiam decision decided on May 27, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States again upheld the finality of acquittals against an attempt at a prosecutor’s appeal.

The trial of Esteban Martinez was set to begin on May 17, 2010. His counsel was ready; the State was not. When the court swore in the jury and invited the State to pre­sent its first witness, the State declined to present any evidence. So Martinez moved for a directed not-guilty verdict, and the court granted it.

So the Court found the Martinez not guilty, acquitting him of the charges against him because the State was not ready when the trial was convened. Talk about dropping the ball.

But things got worse when the prosecutor appealed. Yes, the prosecutor appealed the Court’s decision to grant a directed acquittal. The reason for the appeal: because the prosecutor felt their motion for a continuance should’ve been granted. But as the Court pointed out in denying the motion, the Court had already waited almost 5 years to hear the trial on felony charges — meaning they were essentially risking infringing upon Martinez’s right to a speedy trial.

What’s still worse is that the appellate Court sided with the prosecutor, stating that the trial court’s refusal to grant continuance meant Martinez was never in jeopardy. From what corner of their posteriors they pulled that tripe is beyond me. The jury was sworn in, the judge started the trial, the State refused to present evidence, and they’re trying to say the defendant was never, in essence, put on trial? Yikes!

But thankfully the Supreme Court of the United States stepped in to end this, declaring that Martinez was rightfully acquitted, and that acquittal means he cannot be retried, and that the Illinois Supreme Court “manifestly erred in allowing the State’s appeal”.

So again we have more affirmation on the finality of acquittals.

The case was Martinez v. Illinois, 574 US 833 (2014) (per curiam).