Lets say I just killed Bob (I'm doing a lot of that today). The police suspect me but currently have little evidence that I killed Bob. However, I haven't hidden the murder weapon and body well and can't move them now, so it's just a matter of time before someone finds them and provides the police with enough evidence to convict me.

To avoid jail time when the body is found, I try to protect myself with a claim of double jeopardy. I have two friends claim to have witnessed my killing Bob and I leave a suspicious weapon that looks like it could be the murder weapon somewhere the police will find it. With all this evidence, the police decide to press charges and have me arrested.

Only after my trial starts do I reveal my pre-planned proof that the evidence is false. My friends fly back to their home in some country without an extradition treaty before calling the judge and telling them that they made up the story about seeing me kill Bob. I present proof that the suspected murder weapon was purchased after Bob disappeared and a better explanation for why it looked so suspicious, etc.

With my being able to disprove all the central pieces of evidence, the jury finds me not guilty of Bob's murder. Not long afterwards, Bob's body, and the actual murder weapon, are found. This new evidence is damning and with it, they likely could convict me, but I claim double jeopardy when they try to charge me.

Of key importance, I argue that the last trial was for the same murder. My friends were claiming to witness me murder Bob at the very time and place that the actual murder took place (maybe they even did watch the murder). The police had already suspected me of murdering Bob at this time as well, and had presented some, less effective, evidence at the first trial that they possessed due to the fact that I had actually murdered Bob.

Can I get away with murder?

Does the answer change if the police can prove I planted the original fake evidence which I used to inspire the first murder trial?

  • 1
    Related: law.stackexchange.com/questions/5786/… Nov 13, 2017 at 3:56
  • 4
    Henry Cecil wrote a book where something similar happened; the authorities arranged for a minor but legally significant flaw in the trial (as I recall, substituting a policeman for one of the jury). This meant that there had to be a retrial, at which the defendant's comment "Yes, I did it, but you can't try me again" could be put in evidence. Jan 31, 2019 at 11:48
  • 2
    @TimLymington I don't know what legal doctrine would apply, but I feel if the police intentionally disrupted the first trial just to present that evidence then the evidence should not be allowed in the retrial to prevent rewarding the police for intentionally subverting the law.
    – dsollen
    Jan 31, 2019 at 21:38
  • 3
    The book was fiction, and the whole question is more a thought-experiment than referring to a specific law. But: the courts "should" allow a guilty man to escape because it is only the defence who can play around with technicalities? I will happily discuss this in chat if you wish. Jan 31, 2019 at 22:36
  • If I'm reading the question right, this question kind of assumes that the police stop looking for evidence as soon as they've found enough to put you on trial... But in real life surely they would find everything they could which would include both your fake evidence and whatever real evidence they would have found anyway, and the real evidence would presumably be enough to convict.
    – komodosp
    Sep 21, 2023 at 8:05

3 Answers 3


The double jeopardy clause would prevent you from being retried by the government that tried you for murder (probably a U.S. state).

But, you could be tried for fraud and obstruction of justice at the state level, and you could be tried for murder if an appropriate federal offense were located, at the federal level.

Often conspiracy to deprive someone of their civil rights is used as a federal offense when there is a state level acquittal, and it isn't impossible to imagine that happening in this case as the victim had a right to the protection of the laws, and the state had a right to enforce the criminal laws, which was deprived in a manner that could be called "under color of state law.'

  • 8
    One could argue that the hypothetical hoax resulted in a sham trial, where no jeopardy ever attached, i.e., the defendant's freedom was never at risk.
    – Upnorth
    Aug 21, 2017 at 2:56
  • 4
    @Upnorth can one? Is there any presidence for this sort of argument?
    – dsollen
    Aug 21, 2017 at 12:22
  • 3
    @Upnorth I pondered an estoppel argument, similar to a mistrial deliberately caused by a defendant, but I don't think that it fits a fact pattern where the fraud (fake evidence) is left out in the world at the crime scene as opposed to something in the courtroom itself (e.g. setting the court house on fire).
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 21, 2017 at 15:42
  • 1
    @J.Chang Which means that in Europe double jeopardy isn't a thing with the same rigid meaning or effect, so the question wouldn't even make sense there.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 31, 2018 at 3:37
  • 3
    @dsollen: No precedent. The only double jeopardy ever overturned was for a bribed judge.
    – Joshua
    Jan 24, 2019 at 23:22

Chicago mobster Harry Aleman was acquitted of a murder in his first bench trial because the judge had been paid off. An appeals court later ruled that he could be retried. Double jeopardy did not apply because the first trial was fixed, so he was not in jeopardy.

Wikipedia doesn't say so, but I believe part of what led to that ruling was proof that Aleman knew the judge had been bribed.


Well, I think it could work. I don't think perjured testimony would be enough to make jeopardy not attach in the same way that bribing a judge would. But it's not the best plan, either.

So your friends testify that you did it, take a plane ride, and call the judge. What effect do you expect that to have? The jury will never hear about that phone call; it's just hearsay unless your friends come back and testify under oath again (and thus subject themselves to a perjury charge.) So you're stuck with the jury only hearing the original testimony that you did it. Two eyewitnesses could be enough to convict you all by themselves even if there's problems with the physical evidence. And if your plan rests on the police not finding badly-hidden evidence, that may be a problem since even if you invoke the right to a speedy trial it will likely be months between your arrest and your trial.

If you're acquitted, then once this comes to light, the prosecution is going to look for every possible crime which could apply that they're still allowed to charge you with. Oh, you hid the body (or conspired with your friends to do so)? That's separate from the murder; they're still allowed to go after you for that. In my state that has a maximum sentence of 12 years 6 months. Two counts of conspiracy to commit perjury? Distinct from the murder; up to 6 years each. Placing false evidence? That's another 10 years. Etc. You may not get life like you would with the murder, but you're going away for a long time, unless you've already fled the country.

In general, I'd say that if you have multiple people willing to lie under oath for you, it's not surprising that you have a nonzero chance of getting away with stuff. It might be better to use such people to just lie and say you have an alibi, or that someone else did it, instead of this convoluted plan.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .