566 U.S. 599 (2012), 10-1320, Blueford v. Arkansas

Docket Nº:10-1320
Citation:566 U.S. 599, 132 S.Ct. 2044, 182 L.Ed.2d 937, 80 U.S.L.W. 4387, 23 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 319
Opinion Judge:Roberts, Chief Justice
Party Name:ALEX BLUEFORD, Petitioner v. ARKANSAS
Attorney:Clifford M. Sloan argued the cause for petitioner. Dustin McDaniel argued the cause for respondent.
Judge Panel:Roberts, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer, and Alito, JJ., joined. Sotomayor, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg and Kagan, JJ., joined. Justice Sotomayor, with whom Justice Ginsburg and Justice Kagan join, dissenting.
Case Date:May 24, 2012
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 599

566 U.S. 599 (2012)

132 S.Ct. 2044, 182 L.Ed.2d 937, 80 U.S.L.W. 4387, 23 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 319

ALEX BLUEFORD, Petitioner

v.

ARKANSAS

No. 10-1320

United States Supreme Court

May 24, 2012

Argued February 22, 2012

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ARKANSAS.

SYLLABUS

[182 L.Ed.2d 939] [132 S.Ct. 2046] The State of Arkansas charged petitioner Alex Blueford with capital murder for the death of a 1-year-old child. That charge included the lesser offenses of first-degree murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide. Before the start of deliberations, the trial court instructed the jury to consider the offenses as follows: " If you have a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt on the charge of capital murder, you will consider the charge of murder in the first degree. . . . If you have a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt on the charge of murder in the first degree, you will then consider the charge of manslaughter. . . . If you have a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt on the charge of manslaughter, you will then consider the charge of negligent homicide." The court also presented the jury with a set of verdict forms, which allowed the jury either to convict Blueford of one of the charged offenses, or to acquit him of all of them. Acquitting on some but not others was not an option.

After deliberating for a few hours, the jury reported that it could not reach a verdict. The court inquired about the jury's progress on each offense. The foreperson disclosed that the jury was unanimous against guilt on the charges of capital murder and first-degree murder, was deadlocked on manslaughter, and had not voted on negligent homicide. The court told the jury to continue to deliberate. The jury did so but still could not reach a verdict, and the court declared a mistrial. When the State subsequently sought to retry Blueford, he moved to dismiss the capital and first-degree murder charges on double jeopardy grounds. The trial court denied the motion, and the Supreme Court of Arkansas affirmed on interlocutory appeal.

Held:

The Double Jeopardy Clause does not bar retrying Blueford on charges [132 S.Ct. 2047] of capital murder and first-degree murder. Pp. ___ - ___, 182 L.Ed.2d, at 943-946.

(a) The jury did not acquit Blueford of capital or first-degree murder. Blueford contends that the foreperson's report that the jury was unanimous against guilt on the murder offenses represented a resolution of some or all of the elements of those offenses in his favor. But the report was not a final resolution of anything. When the foreperson told the court how the jury had voted on each offense, the jury's deliberations had not yet concluded. The jurors in fact went back to the jury room to deliberate further, and nothing in the court's instructions prohibited them from reconsidering their votes on capital and first-degree

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murder as deliberations continued. The [182 L.Ed.2d 940] foreperson's report prior to the end of deliberations therefore lacked the finality necessary to amount to an acquittal on those offenses. That same lack of finality undermines Blueford's reliance on Green v. United States, 355 U.S. 184, 78 S.Ct. 221, 2 L.Ed.2d 199, 77 Ohio Law Abs. 202, and Price v. Georgia, 398 U.S. 323, 90 S.Ct. 1757, 26 L.Ed.2d 300. In both of those cases, the verdict of the jury was a final decision; here, the report of the foreperson was not. Pp. ___ - ___, 182 L.Ed.2d, at 943-945.

(b) The trial court's declaration of a mistrial was not improper. A trial can be discontinued without barring a subsequent one for the same offense when " particular circumstances manifest a necessity" to declare a mistrial. Wade v. Hunter, 336 U.S. 684, 690, 69 S.Ct. 834, 93 L.Ed. 974. Blueford contends that there was no necessity for a mistrial on capital and first-degree murder, given the foreperson's report that the jury had voted unanimously against guilt on those charges. According to Blueford, the court at that time should have taken some action, whether through new partial verdict forms or other means, to allow the jury to give effect to those votes, and then considered a mistrial only as to the remaining charges. Blueford acknowledges, however, that the trial court's reason for declaring a mistrial here--that the jury was unable to reach a verdict--has long been considered the " classic basis" establishing necessity for doing so. Arizona v. Washington, 434 U.S. 497, 509, 98 S.Ct. 824, 54 L.Ed.2d 717. And this Court has never required a trial court, before declaring a mistrial because of a hung jury, to consider any particular means of breaking the impasse--let alone to consider giving the jury new options for a verdict. See Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 775, 130 S.Ct. 1855, 176 L.Ed.2d 678. As permitted under Arkansas law, the jury's options in this case were limited to two: either convict on one of the offenses, or acquit on all. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to add another option--that of acquitting on some offenses but not others. Pp. ___ - ___, 182 L.Ed.2d, at 945-946.

2011 Ark. 8, 370 S.W.3d 496, affirmed.

Clifford M. Sloan argued the cause for petitioner.

Dustin McDaniel argued the cause for respondent.

Roberts, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer, and Alito, JJ., joined. Sotomayor, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg and Kagan, JJ., joined.

OPINION

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[132 S.Ct. 2048] Roberts, Chief Justice

The Double Jeopardy Clause protects against being tried twice for the same offense. The Clause does not, however, bar a second trial if the first ended in a mistrial. Before the jury concluded deliberations in this case, it reported that it was unanimous against guilt on charges of capital murder and first-degree murder, was deadlocked on manslaughter, and had not voted on negligent homicide. The court told the jury to continue to deliberate. The jury did so but still could not reach a verdict, and the court declared a mistrial. All agree that the defendant may be retried on charges of manslaughter and negligent homicide. The question is [182 L.Ed.2d 941] whether he may also be retried on charges of capital and first-degree murder.

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I

One-year-old Matthew McFadden, Jr., suffered a severe head injury on November 28, 2007, while home with his mother's boyfriend, Alex Blueford. Despite treatment at a hospital, McFadden died a few days later.

The State of Arkansas charged Blueford with capital murder, but waived the death penalty. The State's theory at trial was that Blueford had injured McFadden intentionally, causing the boy's death " [u]nder circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life." Ark. Code Ann. § 5-10-101(a)(9)(A) (Supp. 2011). The defense, in contrast, portrayed the death as the result of Blueford accidentally knocking McFadden onto the ground.

The trial court instructed the jury that the charge of capital murder included three lesser offenses: first-degree murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide. In addition to describing these offenses, the court addressed the order in which the jury was to consider them: " If you have a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt on the charge of capital murder, you will consider the charge of murder in the first degree. . . . If you have a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt on the charge of murder in the first degree, you will then consider the charge of manslaughter. . . . If you have a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt on the charge of manslaughter, you will then consider the charge of negligent homicide." App. 51-52.

The prosecution commented on these instructions in its closing argument. It told the jury, for example, that " before you can consider a lesser included of capital murder, you must first, all 12, vote that this man is not guilty of capital murder." Id., at 55. The prosecution explained that this was " not a situation where you just lay everything out here and say, well, we have four choices. Which one does it fit the most?" Id., at 59. Rather, the prosecution emphasized, " unless all 12 of you agree that this man's actions were not

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consistent with capital murder, then and only then would you go down to murder in the first degree." Ibid.

After the parties concluded their arguments, the court presented the jury with a [132 S.Ct. 2049] set of five verdict forms, each representing a possible verdict. There were four separate forms allowing the jury to convict on each of the charged offenses: capital murder, first-degree murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide. A fifth form allowed the jury to return a verdict of acquittal, if...

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