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Defendant’s Request For New Trial Does Not Trigger Double Jeopardy


In Justices of Boston Municipal Court v. Lydon, the U.S. Supreme Court considers a defendant’s attempt to avoid a new trial under unusual conditions. Massachusetts law allows defendants in certain criminal cases to choose to have their cases heard by a judge or by a jury. If convicted by a judge, the defendant can ask for a new trial in front of a jury. In Lydon, the defendant chose the first option, and the judge convicted him. The defendant then asked for a new trial before a jury. But he also brought a claim in federal court that the double jeopardy clause prohibited the second trial from going forward, because there had not been enough evidence to convict him at the first trial and that the prosecution should not get a second chance (as the Supreme Court ruled in Burks, 1978). The court disagrees, finding that because the defendant is asking for the second trial, not the prosecution, the second trial “does not constitute governmental oppression of the sort against which the Double Jeopardy Clause was intended to protect.”