Should the Double Jeopardy Clause Prohibit Parallel State and Federal Prosecutions? Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1638 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice

Double Jeopardy Clause:

According to the stipulations in the Fifth Amendment, the double jeopardy clause protects against two abuses i.e. numerous prosecutions for the same crime and numerous punishments for the same crime. While the double jeopardy clause does not contain parallel state constitutional provisions, the principles of the clause can be applicable to the general due process and the common law. Whereas an acquittal or its equivalent is final for the purposes of double jeopardy, a conviction is not final unless it has been ratified on appeal or the appeal time has elapsed. When the defendant has been convicted of a lesser crime under a plea agreement, the state is prohibited from prosecuting for the initially charged greater crime. This basically means that a conviction following the trial of a lesser included crime implies an acquittal of the greater crime ("Chapter 14," n.d.).

While the scope of the first prosecution is partly set by the pleadings, the second proceeding for the same crime must be a criminal prosecution. The defendant can later be prosecuted because the use of the second crime in enhancing the defendant's sentence for the first crime does not prohibit the later prosecution for the second crime. The meaning of same crime in multiple prosecution cases has always been a point of sharp divisions in the United States Supreme Court. These sharp divisions are on whether or not the double jeopardy clause prohibits a subsequent prosecution when the state has established that the defendant had already been prosecuted.

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The Case of Lemrick Nelson, Jr.:

TOPIC: Term Paper on Should the Double Jeopardy Clause Prohibit Parallel State and Federal Prosecutions? Assignment

In August 1991, a car that was driven by an orthodox Jew that was part of a motorcade accompanying the Lubavitcher Rebbe drove into the intersection of President Street and Utica Avenue, struck another car and hit two black children. Within a few minutes, a Jewish ambulance followed by the New York City police arrived at the scene. During this time, the driver of the ambulance was being assaulted by civilians who had arrived at the scene. While the police attended to the children and sought for medical assistance, they ordered the Jewish ambulance to take the driver away. By this time, there was a large and angry crowd at the scene of the accident who were complaining of preferential treatment the police had shown the Jewish driver rather than tending to the needs of the seriously injured children.

As the crowd continued to gather at the accident scene, one man, Charles Price provoked the crowd to attack Jewish people within the streets of Crown Heights as a sign of revenge for the preferential treatment by police. One of the people who had gathered at this scene of the accident was Lemrick Nelson who was sixteen years old. As the crowd exploded, Price and Nelson were among them as they went down President Street seeking for Jewish people to attack. When the crowd spotted a 29-year-old orthodox Jew, Yankel Rosenbaum, Price incited them and together with rest of the crowd, Nelson attacked him. By the time the police arrived moments later, the crowd inflicted four stab wounds on Rosenbaum as they scattered. The police then spotted and arrested Nelson after he jumped over a fence and hid behind a bush.

Nelson was found with a bloody knife with the word killer inscribed on it as police took him to Rosenbaum who identified Nelson as the person who stabbed him. Furthermore, the DNA test from the blood that stained Nelson's pants was found to exhibit characteristics that were consistent with Rosenbaum's. Given that the personnel at the hospital did not examine him thoroughly and only treated one of his lungs, Rosenbaum succumbed to the injuries the following morning. While at the police station, Nelson orally confessed of stabbing Rosenbaum to two different detectives stating that he didn't attack Rosenbaum because of his Jewish background. According to his confession, Nelson attacked Rosenbaum because of the fact that he was drunk and was carried away by the excitement (Vinegrad, 2003).

The First Two Trials:

Given that Nelson was arrested while fleeing a crime scene with the murder weapon in his pocket and the victim's blood on his pants, this was an open-and-shut case. By normal standards, it was an open-and-shut case because the victim positively identified him and Nelson had admitted of the attack twice to detectives. However, the state court jury acquitted Nelson of all the charges including weapon charges and murder following a month-long trial and the jury's four days discussions. After his acquittal, Nelson had dinner with 11 of the twelve jurors, his attorney and the press. This injustice that took place at the state court was more vivid when Nelson confessed of the attack to both his girlfriend and roommate following his move to Georgia.

However, Nelson was later charged in federal court in 1994 as a juvenile for breaching the civil rights of Rosenbaum that resulted in his death. Furthermore, the federal court later charged him as an adult with the crime following a two-year long litigation process. While Nelson's defense was simple, there was overwhelming evidence of his motives for and participation in the attack. Consequently, together with Price, Nelson was convicted and sentenced to almost twenty years in jail after a four-week trial by the more racially balanced jury as compared to the state court jury. Almost five years after his conviction, Nelson successfully appealed to the Court of Appeals that overturned his conviction and that of Price. The majority of the panel was of the view that the decision to seat two jurors out of sequence was a reversible mistake.

The Third Trial:

In the third trial in 2003, many things about the case were different including new attorneys on both sides, a new judge and the defendant's age who was now 27 years. In this trial, Nelson's defense was also new since he admitted of attacking Rosenbaum while denying that it had anything to do with Rosenbaum's religion. Similar to the first two trials, there was overwhelming evidence of Nelson's guilt and participation in the attack. Following more than five-days of deliberations, the jury refused to conclude that Nelson's conduct caused Rosenbaum's death. Given that this jury heard no evidence of medical negligence because the judge had ruled that such evidence was legally irrelevant, the reason for their decision was not immediately clear. The culmination of the case was a sentence of a maximum of ten years in prison, seven of which Nelson had already served during the period of the endless case.

Double Jeopardy Clause and Parallel Prosecutions:

The double jeopardy clause was designed with the purpose of protecting individuals from undergoing the hazards of a trial and likely conviction more than once for an alleged crime. However, this clause should not be used to prohibit parallel state and federal prosecutions because of two major reasons which are & #8230;

Dual Sovereignty Doctrine:

While the constitution prohibits different punishments in multiple criminal prosecutions when the punishments are based on the same crime, its limitation is applicable to both state and federal governments. The constitutional standards require that state rules regarding double jeopardy be regarded in consideration of federal standards ("Double Jeopardy," n.d.). The doctrine of dual sovereignty upholds that both the state and federal governments exercise their own sovereignty when identifying a crime. Both of these two governments exercise their own sovereignty and not of the other when constituting a crime against its dignity and peace.

This clause should not be used to prohibit parallel state and federal prosecutions because a state may either provide lenient sentence or acquittal of a defendant who gains the sympathy of the state authorities against the federal law enforcement. As revealed in the case of Lemrick Nelson Jr., the state acquitted the defendant because of the sympathy from the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Should the Double Jeopardy Clause Prohibit Parallel State and Federal Prosecutions?" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Should the Double Jeopardy Clause Prohibit Parallel State and Federal Prosecutions?.  (2011, February 27).  Retrieved October 16, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Should the Double Jeopardy Clause Prohibit Parallel State and Federal Prosecutions?."  27 February 2011.  Web.  16 October 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Should the Double Jeopardy Clause Prohibit Parallel State and Federal Prosecutions?."  February 27, 2011.  Accessed October 16, 2021.