22 February 2013

Law in Plain English: Evans v. Michigan

This is one in a series of posts designed to describe court decisions in plain English. For more detail and background on the legal issues, see the link to the case below. For similar posts, click here.

Evans v. Michigan

Evans was tried for arson. His attorney moved for a directed verdict and the judge granted it, believing that the state had to prove that the burned building was not a "dwelling." However, the judge erred in believing that this was a requirement. The appeals court reversed the trial court's ruling. As a result, Evans was set to be tried a second time. Normally, this would be precluded by the double jeopardy clause. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that when a trial court directs a verdict because one of the elements had not been proven, this did not constitute an acquittal. As a result, Evans could be retried. The Supreme Court ruled that regardless of the trial judge's error, the directed verdict constituted an acquittal; and as a result, Evans could not be retried. The practical impact of this decision is that a defendant's protection against double jeopardy will be expanded, even when the trial court makes an obvious error.
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