Green v. United States

355 U.S. 184, 78 S. Ct. 221 (1957)



The State with all its resources and power should not be allowed to make repeated attempts to convict an individual for an alleged offense, thereby subjecting him to embarrassment, expense and ordeal and compelling him to live in a continuing state of anxiety and insecurity, as well as enhancing the possibility that even though innocent he may be found guilty. 


The petitioner, Everett Green, was indicted by a District of Columbia grand jury in two counts. The first charged that he had committed arson by maliciously setting fire to a house.  The second accused him of causing the death of a woman by this alleged arson which if true amounted to murder in the first degree punishable by death.  Green entered a plea of not guilty to both counts and the case was tried by a jury. The trial judge treated second degree murder, which is defined by the District Code as the killing of another with malice  aforethought and is punishable by imprisonment for a term of years or for life,  as an offense included within the language charging first degree murder in the second count of the indictment. The jury found Green guilty of arson and of second degree murder but did not find him guilty on the charge of murder in the first degree. Green was sentenced to one to three years' imprisonment for arson and five to twenty years' imprisonment for murder in the second degree. He appealed the conviction of second degree murder. The Court of Appeals reversed that conviction because it was not supported by evidence and remanded the case for a new trial. 95 U. S. App. D. C. 45, 218 F.2d 856. n remand Green was tried again for first degree murder under the original indictment. At the outset of this second trial he raised the defense of former jeopardy but the court overruled his plea. This time a new jury found him guilty of first degree murder and he was given the mandatory death sentence. Again he appealed.


Was there double jeopardy in this case?




At Green's first trial the jury was authorized to find him guilty of either first degree murder (killing while perpetrating a felony) or, alternatively, of second degree murder (killing with malice aforethought).  jury found him guilty of second degree murder, but on his appeal that conviction was reversed and the case remanded for a new trial. At this new trial Green was tried again, not for second degree murder, but for first degree murder, even though the original jury had refused to find him guilty on that charge and it was in no way involved in his appeal.  For the reasons stated hereafter, we conclude that this second trial for first degree murder placed Green in jeopardy twice for the same offense in violation of the Constitution. 

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