DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The case of a Detroit arson suspect, whose case was thrown out by a Wayne County circuit judge, has had a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court.
At a hearing in Washington on Tuesday, the justices appeared inclined to rule that criminal defendants like Lamar Evans can’t be retried, even if the acquittal is based on legal errors.
Two Detroit police officers say they saw a fire in a vacant house on Sept. 22, 2008, and saw Evans running away while carrying a gas can.
The judge acquitted Evans midway through his trial, saying prosecutors failed to prove the house was a dwelling. Michigan appealed, saying the judge’s action was invalid because it was based on a mistaken interpretation of the law.
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits protects people from being tried twice for the same offense. The Michigan courts said the amendment’s Double Jeopardy Clause did not apply to Evans because the judge’s mistake means he was not truly acquitted.
But several justices said they were reluctant to adopt the Michigan courts’ reasoning that Evans should not benefit from a legal windfall because of the judge’s mistake.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make a decision by the end of June.
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