Strict Constructionism

I’ve talked about my view that judges should interpret the law as written and not based on their own judgement or opinion. I found a teachable example in a WSJ report on the Supreme Court’s ruling on an unusual murder retrial:

“When the jury was unable to return a verdict, the trial court properly declared a mistrial and discharged the jury,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in a 10-page opinion. “As a consequence, the Double Jeopardy Clause does not stand in the way of a second trial on the same offenses.”

Non-controversial. And then:

“Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the dissenters, said the decision unfairly gave prosecutors a “second bite at the apple” because the jury “unmistakably announced acquittal” on the capital and first-degree murder charges. “That ought to be the end of the matter,” she wrote.”

After having sat on a Jury, the rules are really clear up front. You deliberate, and then you reach a verdict. Deliberations are not verdicts, and verdicts are not deliberations. A verdict is not reached unless a verdict is reached. The fact that Sotomayor is getting this mixed up, or is willing to disregard basic logic, is radical to me. I can’t believe 3 Supreme Court Justices of the USA dissented on this.

Jury’s get hung every day and they all result in mistrials. It’s one thing if she wants to change the rules so that Jury’s can reach multiple verdicts, but that’s not how it works currently. Her willingness to willfully disregard the rules is a good example of the type of jurisprudence that I oppose.

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