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Smith v. Massachusetts

United States Supreme Court
543 U.S. 462 (2005)


Smith (defendant) was tried before a jury, the indictment stemming from three counts: armed assault with intent to murder, assault and battery by means of a deadly weapon, and unlawful possession of a firearm. Smith was charged with shooting the cousin of his girlfriend, who was a codefendant and charged with being an accessory in the case. When the prosecution finished its case, Smith moved for a required finding of not guilty on the firearm count, because the state had not proved the point. The trial judge, concluding that there was no evidence, granted the motion. The judge, however, did not notify the jury of the acquittal on the firearm count. The defense then presented its case. During the recess before closing argument, the prosecutor informed the judge about a state precedent that would support the prosecution’s third indictment, the firearm charge. The prosecution wanted the judge to defer judgment until after the jury verdict, and the judge agreed, saying that she was reversing her previous ruling and allowing the firearm count to go to the jury, which subsequently convicted Smith on all three counts. Smith received a sentence of 10 to 12 years’ incarceration on the firearms count. The court of appeals affirmed, saying that the Double Jeopardy Clause was not implicated because the trial court judge’s correction did not subject the defendant to a second prosecution. The court of appeals also rejected Smith’s second claim, namely that Massachusetts Rule of Criminal Procedure 25(a) made the trial judge’s initial ruling final.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Scalia, J)

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