United States v. Scott

PETITIONER:United States
LOCATION:University Medical Center

DOCKET NO.: 76-1382
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 437 US 82 (1978)
ARGUED: Feb 21, 1978
DECIDED: Jun 14, 1978

Mr. Andrew L. Frey – for petitioner
William C. Marietti – for respondent

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Scott

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – February 21, 1978 in United States v. Scott

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 14, 1978 in United States v. Scott

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the court in United States against Scott will be announced by Mr. Justice Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

Unlike the Exxon case which my brother Stevens just announced, this is one of several Double Jeopardy cases which the Court has head under consideration this term.

In this case, the respondent was charged in the District Court for the Western District of Michigan with three counts of distribution of narcotics.

But before the case was submitted to the jury, the respondent defendants motion to dismiss two counts of the indictment because a pre-indictment delay was granted.

The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit denied the Government’s appeal, dismissed the Government’s appeal, saying it had no right to appeal relying on our opinion in United States against Jenkins, because further proceedings devoted to the resolution of factual issues would have been necessary if the Government had obtained a reversal in the Sixth Circuit.

Because we have now concluded that rule laid down in Jenkins impede substantial justice, without advancing the fundamental purpose of the Double Jeopardy Clause, we overrule that decision, and we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals dismissing the Government’s appeal.

The chief purpose of the Double Jeopardy Clause is to protect criminal defendants from Government oppression through repeated attempts to convict them of a single crime.

Thus, a final judgment of either acquittal or conviction will bar a second prosecution.

However, a defendant’s motion for mistrial ordinarily will not bar a second trial and we conclude that the same principle must be applied whenever a defendant persuades the court to terminate his trial before judgment on the ground unrelated to guilt or innocence.

It is not an active governmental oppression to permit a second trial should defendant’s legal position to be shown to be wrong upon appeal following such a determination by the Trial Court.

Because the District Court’s decision withdrawing this case from the jury was not an acquittal, the Double Jeopardy Clause would not be offended by a second prosecution should the Government to be able to persuade the Court of Appeals, that the District Court was wrong in its conclusion as to pre-trial delay.

While we are not unmindful of the importance of stare decisis, our judgments and constitutional matters are not subject to legislative correction and we must be willing to correct them when the need is manifest.

Here our increasing experience with the variety of governmental appeals has fully convinced us that the rule established in Jenkins, which I authored for the Court some four years ago, is both unworkable and an unsound application of the Double Jeopardy principle.

Mr. Justice Brennan has filed a dissenting opinion in which Mr. Justice White and Mr. Justice Marshall and Mr. Justice Stevens have joined.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Rehnquist.