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I heard an anecdote of a suspect having just been declared "not guilty" due to insufficient evidence, then he said "thanks, I won't do it again". It was used as an example of how dumb some people can be, and how the criminal just got what he deserved... however, can such a thing really happen? Wouldn't the suspect be protected by double jeopardy? (the story is set in a jurisdiction where double jeopardy exists)

Is the trial officially over as soon as the judge utters the final decision?

Consider the following cases:

  1. The suspect carelessly and accidentally admits the crime in the courtroom right after being cleared, like in the example above ("thanks, I won't do it again") Can the decision be altered ten seconds after it's been made? If so, is such a careless utterance enough evidence to do so?
  2. The suspect, having heard about double jeopardy, grins and says openly and voluntarily, right there in the courtroom after the decision: "Haha, in your face! I did murder your wife, but the trial is over so you can't do anything anymore!"
  3. Same as 2, but it happens weeks or months after the trial, the suspect boasts in front of witnesses how he did it and got away with it. (and to not make it only hearsay, let's assume that the boasting contained actual information which could have been used as a strong evidence)

Would the suspect be protected by double jeopardy? If not, what would be the procedure of doing a retrial or a new trial?

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    Double jeopardy need not mean the same thing everywhere it exists. In the US you can be separately charged by the state and federal government for the same crime by default; an Indian government could do so as well (I think there's a question somewhere on the SE about the maximum number of sovereigns in the US that could conceivably charge you for one act and its immediate consequences, and it was something like 7). And there's also civil liability, or separate charges like obstruction of justice or perjury that might become relevant... – zibadawa timmy Jun 25 '20 at 6:22
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    All of which seem to be distinct considerations from answering "is the trial over as soon as the verdict is read?" – zibadawa timmy Jun 25 '20 at 6:23
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In the US, a person is generally protected from being tried for the same offense twice, but they are not necessarily absolutely "protected". If a jury convicts a person but the judge enters a directed verdict of not guilty, the prosecution can appeal that action (Wilson v. US, 420 U.S. 332). The reason is that the acquittal could be disposed of on appeal without subjecting the person to a second trial. In contrast, in Fong Foo v. US, 369 U.S. 141 the trial judge ordered the jury to enter a verdict of acquittal. The appeals court rejected the judges basis for ordering an acquittal: but Fong Foo was "protected" because there could not be a second trial (double jeopardy), and it does not follow that the jury would have convicted but for the judge's order.

The question reduces to the limited circumstances under which the prosecution can appeal a verdict. For instance, the prosecution can appeal a tre-trial motion to dismiss, and since there was no trial, there is no second jeopardy. Within a single jurisdiction, the only circumstance allowing a second trial involves bribery of a judge (Aleman v. Judges of the Circuit Court of Cook County, 138 F.3d 302), where the basis for allowing a second trial is that defendant was not in jeopardy with the first trial.

New evidence does not override a defendant's protection against a second trial, whether it is new DNA evidence or a confession. It does not matter if this evidence arises seconds after the final verdict is entered, or months after. Or even before, but the prosecution was unaware.

  • Regarding your edit: in this case how come there aren't notable cases of my second example happening? (or the third one, which might be even more common but less likely to get media attention). The suspect wouldn't risk anything, and if he was part of a crime gang, would even gain a lot of prestige. – vsz Jun 25 '20 at 16:31
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    Perhaps because the confession can still be used in a civil suit against the person. Double jeopardy is only a limit on criminal prosecution. – user6726 Jun 25 '20 at 18:13
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This depends entirely on how double jeopardy is interpreted in the relevant jurisdiction and what rights the prosecution has to appeal an acquittal.

For example, in Dutch law, there is double jeopardy protection, but that doesn't come into play until the verdict is considered final. The verdict becomes final when all appeals are dealt with, including any re-trials ordered, and the terms for lodging a new appeal have expired.

This means that for your example cases, in the first two the prosecutor will most likely lodge an appeal and in the third it depends on if the term for lodging an appeal has expired or not.

As procedures go, there is no difference if the prosecutor or the defendant appeals the decision. The court of appeals will look at the case and make a judgement, which can range from affirming the earlier judgement, amending the judgement, overturning the judgement to ordering a new trial.

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