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Benton v. Maryland Case Brief

Summary of Benton v. Maryland U S S Ct [1969]

Former Jeopardy

Relevant Facts and Procedure: Benton was tried on charges of burglary and larceny.  He was found not guilty of larceny, but convicted on the burglary. The grand and petit juries were found to have been selected under an invalid law, and the df was given the option, and he elected to do so,  of demanding reindictment and retrail. Again he was charged with larceny and burglary and he moved to have the larceny dismissed that was denied.  At the second trial he was convicted of both burglary and larceny.  S. Ct. vacated judgment and remanded.

Legal Issue(s): If the d. jeopardy clause is applicable to the states via the 14th was the df twice placed in jeopardy ?

Court’s Holding: Yes and yes.

Law or Rule(s): No man is to be brought into jeopardy of his life more than once for the same offense.

Court Rationale: The fundamental nature of the guarantee against double jeopardy can be traced to Greek and Roman times and then in the common law of England before residing in the American system.  Every state incorporates some form of the prohibition in its constitution or common law.  The federal double jeopardy standards apply to the states.  Petitioner was acquitted of larceny in his first trial.  The state cannot condition an appeal of one offense on a coerced surrender of a valid plea of former jeopardy on another offense.  A valid double jeopardy plea a df cannot be forced to waive.

Plaintiff’s Argument: A person is not placed in jeopardy by a void indictment.

Defendant’s Argument: To try df again for larceny would violate the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy.

PALKO – Only when a kind of jeopardy subjected a df to “a hardship so acute and shocking that our policy will not endure it,” did the 14th apply to the States.



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