Civics 101 Lesson of the Day: Double Jeopardy


For some reason, Ashley Judd got to kill her husband under the watchful eyes of Tommy Lee Jones with no repercussions due to the double jeopardy clause in the Constitution. This never really made sense, but today the state Supreme Court helped clarify the concept when they handed down a 9-0 decision vacating part of Alyssa Knight?s plea agreement on the basis of double jeopardy.

Here?s the quick version: In September 2003, Knight and friends conspired to rob a man named Arren Cole by breaking into his motel room in Spokane. Eventually Knight lured him into an alleyway where he was shot and robbed. He showed up in an emergency room dead on arrival. Buying a lighter sentence by ratting out her conspirators, Knight agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit second degree robbery, conspiracy to commit first degree burglary and second degree murder. She was given 285 months in the slammer.

After agreeing to the deal, Knight later appealed the two theft-related convictions saying that she had been: ?subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.? (That?s the fifth amendment if you?re keeping score, same as the one invoked by Richard McIver?s wife to avoid testifying against him.)

The court decided that since both charges were a conspiracy to commit the same singular act--they call it a unit of prosecution--double jeopardy had indeed been violated. The conspiracy to commit first degree burglary charge was thrown out and the she?ll have to be resentenced.

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