WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court fell Monday to change the long-standing rule that puts a person on trial several times for the same crime, is not in violation of the constitution's protection against dual danger – a case highlighted by possible consequences for President Donald Trump's former campaign president, Paul Manafort.
The 7-2 verdict was a defeat for an Alabama man, Terance Gamble, convicted of robbery in 2008 and pulled over seven years later for a traffic offense. When the police found a gun in his car, he was prosecuted under Alabama's law that excludes criminals from having firearms. The local American lawyer then charged Gamble with violating a similar federal law. Due to the added federal belief, his prison sentence was extended by nearly three years.
Fifth amendment says that no one should "be twice as dangerous as life or limb" for the same crime. But for more than 1
The case attracted more than the usual attention because of the prospect of Trump having to apologize to Manafort, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for violating fraud. A presidential congratulation could free him from federal prison, but it would not protect him from being prosecuted on similar state taxes filed by New York. Overriding the rule that allows separate prosecutions for the same offenses would have worked in Manafort's favor.
Gamble's lawyer, Louis Chaiten from Cleveland, said that the country's founders understood the protection against double the danger of banning any other prosecution for the same offense. Under English common law, American law's roots, there was no "separate sovereign" exception. A person could not be brought to court in England if he was already trying for the same offense in another country.
Chaiten also argued that states and federal government are at least not truly independent and are instead part of a complete national system. He quoted Alexander Hamilton, who described them as "related systems, part of a whole."
And Chaiten said that Congress has made the problem worse by dramatically expanding the number and extent of federal laws in recent years, creating more overlap with state laws – something never anticipated in previous judgments that allowed two prosecutions .
But the Trump administration said that the long-standing dual-rule rule allows states and the federal government to pursue various interests without disturbing each other. Changing the current understanding by excluding subsequent prosecution would allow foreign litigation to prevent US attempts at crimes against Americans, the government said.
Groups of civil liberties also said that the rule has allowed the federal government to pursue infamous violations of civil rights called unwilling or unable to pursue.
Gamble's argument appealed to some of the court's liberal and conservative. Two years ago, conservative justice Clarence Thomas joined the liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg saying that the court's previous double-breach decisions were due to a "fresh investigation."