Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Acquittal on Substantive Drug Charges Doesn't Bar Further Prosecution for Drug Conspiracy

US v. Yearwood: Yearwood was originally charged with conspiracy to distribute crack and distribution/aiding and abetting the distribution of crack. At his first trial, he was acquitted on the distribution charge and the jury hung on the conspiracy charge. At a second trial on the conspiracy charge, Yearwood argued that Double Jeopardy precluded the second prosecution, arguing that in acquitting him on the distribution charge the first jury resolved an issue of ultimate fact needed to find him guilty on the conspiracy charged. The district court rejected that argument and Yearwood was convicted

The Fourth Circuit affirmed, concluding no Double Jeopardy violation occurred. First, the court determined that distribution and conspiracy have distinct elements and thus are not the same offense. It rejected Yearwood's attempt to link the "knowingly associate" element of aiding and abetting with the conspiracy element of "knowingly and voluntarily" becoming part of the conspiracy. Second, the court concluded that the collateral estoppel element of Double Jeopardy was not violated, as the conspiracy charge did not require the relitigation of factual issues resolved in the first trial. In doing so, it followed cases from the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits. The court also turned away Yearwood's challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence underlying his conviction.

1 comment:

T Charles said...

Nice summary of court decision Jonathan.