When a Defendant Agrees to Two Trials Instead of One, Can He Claim that Double Jeopardy Bars the Second?

A Virginia grand jury indicted Michael Currier for burglary, grand larceny, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon for his alleged involvement in stealing a safe containing guns and cash from another man’s home in March 2012. Currier’s prior convictions for burglary and larceny gave rise to the felon-in-possession charge. To avoid having evidence about those prior convictions introduced in connection with the new burglary and larceny charges, Currier (and the government) agreed to severance of the felon-in-possession charge so that it could be tried separately. The burglary and larceny charges were tried first, and Currier was acquitted. Currier then moved to dismiss the felon-in-possession charge, arguing that the second trial was barred by double jeopardy, or, alternatively, that the government should be precluded from introducing at that trial any evidence about the burglary and larceny for which he had just been acquitted. The trial court rejected Currier’s arguments, and he was tried and convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Virginia’s appellate courts affirmed the conviction. The United States Supreme Court granted review and, last Friday, issued its opinion in the case.

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Court OKs Offensive Collateral Estoppel

In my experience, the mere mention of the terms “res judicata” and “collateral estoppel” in the classroom setting operates like a blast of intellectual air conditioning, causing mental processes to slow and eyes to glaze, if not to twitch. Notwithstanding this aversion to the concepts, at bottom they are quite simple. Both concepts are rules … Read more