Supreme Court Seems Reluctant To Prohibit State And Federal Prosecutions Of Same Crime

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WASHINGTON - A majority of the Supreme Court sounded unlikely Thursday to overturn more than a century of doctrine that allows states and the federal government to prosecute someone for the same criminal conduct.

While it went unmentioned at the oral argument, the case has implications for any presidential pardons that President Donald Trump might issue for those convicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Under the status quo, states might still be able to prosecute under their own laws those who receive a presidential pardon, which applies only to federal charges.

Usual ideological pairings were scrambled as the court took a deep dive into the Double Jeopardy clause of the Constitution, which says no one shall be "subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." The doctrine allowing dual prosecutions by state and federal prosecutors is an exception to the prohibition, recognized by the Supreme Court since the 19th century.

Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had called two years ago for a fresh look at the "separate sovereigns" doctrine, and described it Thursday as a "double-whammy" for criminal defendants. The colleague most outspoken in apparent agreement with her was conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Most adament on the other side of the issue was conservative Justice Samuel Alito and liberal Justice Elena Kagan. Kagan demanded that Louis Chaiten, a Cleveland lawyer representing an Alabama felon, explain why the court should not apply its usual standard of letting decided issues stand, referred to as stare decisis.

Supreme Court seems reluctant to prohibit state and federal prosecutions of same crime
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