On September 5, 2023, Kaplan Hecker & Fink filed an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, American Civil Liberties Union, and American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia in support of the Petitioner in McElrath v. Georgia (No. 22-721). The case presents a question of significant importance relating to the Double Jeopardy Clause and the critical safeguard it provides for the jury and the accused.
The Double Jeopardy Clause makes acquittals unreviewable and forever bars retrial on the acquitted charge. But in this case, the Georgia Supreme Court vacated an acquittal, as well as two convictions, because it viewed the jury’s verdicts as inconsistent, and therefore “valueless.” As a result, Damian McElrath faces retrial on a charge for which he was acquitted.
Our brief urges the United States Supreme Court to reverse the decision and reaffirm well-established principles to resolve the case. As we explain, the Georgia Supreme Court crossed a line when it vacated the acquittal due to inconsistencies (or “repugnancies”) that it perceived among the jury’s verdicts. It transformed the logic courts use to deny certain acquittals preclusive effect into a reason to deny them finality, circumventing the most fundamental rule of the Double Jeopardy Clause. And allowing judges to overrule acquittals on the ground that they are inconsistent with other verdicts, as the Georgia Supreme Court did here, would directly undermine the jury’s essential role in the criminal system and the defendant’s right not to be placed in jeopardy twice for the same offense.
The KHF team includes partner Sean Hecker, counsel Carmen Iguina González, and associate Kate Harris.
The filing, which can be read in full here, reflects the firm’s commitment to fighting for justice and advocating for the rights of the incarcerated.