Facts of the Case
In May 2005, Juan Bravo-Fernandez, the president of a private security firm in Puerto Rico, and Hector Martinez-Maldonado, a member of the Puerto Rican Senate, traveled to Las Vegas to see a boxing match. Bravo-Fernandez and Martinez-Maldonado were later indicted on charges that Bravo-Fernandez’s payment for the trip was connected to Martinez-Maldonado’s support of legislation beneficial to the security firm. The charges included violations of the federal bribery statute, conspiracy, and the Travel Act, which prohibits travel in interstate commerce for a criminal purpose — in this case, the violation of the federal bribery statute. The jury convicted the defendants of violating the federal bribery statute, but found the defendants not guilty of conspiracy to violate the statute or of violating the Travel Act. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit vacated the convictions for violating the federal bribery statute because the jury was improperly instructed about what the government needed to prove. The appellate court remanded the case.
Could the state criminally prosecute non-violent protestors staging a sit-in to express opposition to segregation by race?
“The Double Jeopardy Clause does not prevent the government from retrying defendants after a jury returns an irreconcilably inconsistent verdict of convictions and acquittals and the convictions are later vacated based on a different legal error. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivered the opinion for the unanimous Court. The Court determined that retrial in this case would be precluded if the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit had vacated the convictions (a) due to insufficient evidence or (b) to resolve the inconsistency of the jury’s verdicts. However, because the vacated judgment was due to a legal error, the petitioners may be retried. The Court also drew a distinction between a hung jury and the jury’s verdict in this case. A hung jury means a jury did not reach a decision at all