Supreme Court rules defendants can be tried on state and federal charges, potentially impacting Manafort

Supreme Court rules defendants can be tried on state and federal charges, potentially impacting Manafort
© Greg Nash

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to overturn a longstanding doctrine on whether an individual can be prosecuted for the same crime twice under federal and state laws.

The justices, in a 7-2 decision, found that the dual-sovereignty doctrine does not contradict the Constitution's Double Jeopardy Clause, which prevents an individual from being prosecuted for the same crime twice.

The decision could have widespread implications for defendants, including former associates of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat MORE who are hoping the president might pardon them.

The ruling rejected the argument put forward by Alabama inmate Terance Gamble, who was prosecuted for the same gun offense by state and federal prosecutors.

The decision could potentially impact Trump's 2016 campaign manager Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDemocrats return to a battered Trump Manafort's legal team argues NY prosecution constitutes double jeopardy Clip surfaces of Paul Manafort and wife on Nickelodeon game show MORE, who is facing state charges that echo a federal conviction. The businessman, who was recently convicted on fraud charges in Virginia, could have benefited from the court overturning the doctrine.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance unveiled a mortgage fraud indictment against Manafort in March, just moments after Manafort was sentenced in federal court in D.C.  

Trump has distanced himself from the possibility of pardoning Manafort, but has expressed sympathy for his former campaign head, fueling speculation that a pardon could be in the works.

Trump would be unable to pardon Manafort on any state charges.

Justice Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoOvernight Defense: Esper sworn in as Pentagon chief | Confirmed in 90-8 vote | Takes helm as Trump juggles foreign policy challenges | Senators meet with woman accusing defense nominee of sexual assault Esper sworn in as Pentagon chief Trump pays respects to late Justice Stevens at Supreme Court MORE wrote the court’s majority opinion, joined by Justices Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasGorsuch: Americans should remember political opponents 'love this country as much as we do' McConnell: GOP would 'absolutely' fill Supreme Court seat next year What to know about the fight over Trump's tax returns MORE, Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerGorsuch: Americans should remember political opponents 'love this country as much as we do' McConnell: GOP would 'absolutely' fill Supreme Court seat next year Juan Williams: McConnell's Supreme Court hypocrisy MORE, Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorSotomayor, Angela Davis formally inducted into National Women's Hall of Fame Supreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Democrats set for Lone Star showdown MORE, Elena KaganElena KaganPuerto Ricans joke online about what it would be like to be part of Denmark Trump pays respects to late Justice Stevens at Supreme Court Kagan: I will 'never accept' Supreme Court's ruling on partisan gerrymandering MORE and Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report Kavanaugh remains guilty until proven innocent, according to Democrats The Hill's 12:30 Report: NY Times story sparks new firestorm over Kavanaugh MORE and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Justices Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgSupreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Democrats set for Lone Star showdown White House 'pleased' about Supreme Court decision on asylum rule MORE and Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchJustice Gorsuch is wrong — 'originalist' judges make stuff up too Supreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration Gorsuch: 'We're not nine robots, we're nine judges' MORE each filed dissenting opinions, and Thomas issued a separate concurring opinion.

In the majority opinion, the justices rejected Gamble’s reading of the Double Jeopardy Clause, finding that the provision “honors the substantive differences between the interests that two sovereigns can have in punishing the same act.” 

“They suggest that because the division of federal and state power was meant to promote liberty, it cannot support a rule that exposes Gamble to a second sentence,” the opinion states. “This argument fundamentally misunderstands the governmental structure established by the Constitutions.”

And the justices largely rejected Gamble’s legal arguments, which cited, among other things, the Founding Fathers' original drafts of the Fifth Amendment and English common law.

Alito wrote that doing away with the dual sovereignty rule would "do little to trim the reach of federal criminal law, and it would not even prevent many successive state and federal prosecutions for the same criminal conduct" without further action by the court.

In a dissenting opinion, Ginsburg wrote that considering the state and federal government as separate sovereigns “overlooks a basic tenet of our federal system.” She argued that the separate sets of rights for each form of government was intended to secure the rights of the people, not to allow the further prosecution of crimes. 

“Different parts of the ‘WHOLE’ United States should not be positioned to prosecute a defendant a second time for the same offense,” Ginsburg wrote.

And Gorsuch wrote that a “free society does not allow its government to try the same individual for the same crime until it’s happy with the result.”

He wrote that the doctrine “finds no meaningful support in the text of the Constitution, its original public meaning, structure, or history."

“Instead the Constitution promises all Americans that they will never suffer double jeopardy,” Gorsuch wrote. “I would enforce that guarantee.”

--Updated at 12:12 p.m.