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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 TrumpHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Police called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline 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 ManafortDOJ veteran says he's quitting over Barr's 'slavish obedience' to Trump Bruce Ohr retires from DOJ Don't forget: The Trump campaign gave its most sensitive data to a Russian spy 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 AlitoSupreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline Supreme Court won't fast-track GOP bid to block Pennsylvania mail ballot extension 'Packing' federal courts is already a serious problem MORE wrote the court’s majority opinion, joined by Justices Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasSupreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline Supreme Court won't fast-track GOP bid to block Pennsylvania mail ballot extension 'Packing' federal courts is already a serious problem MORE, Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerBarrett to use Supreme Court chambers previously used by Ruth Bader Ginsburg Justice Barrett's baptism by fire: Protecting the integrity of elections Supreme Court reinstates ban on curbside voting in Alabama MORE, Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorLawsuit claims census supervisors pressured workers to falsify data Barrett to use Supreme Court chambers previously used by Ruth Bader Ginsburg Justice Barrett's baptism by fire: Protecting the integrity of elections MORE, Elena KaganElena KaganBarrett to use Supreme Court chambers previously used by Ruth Bader Ginsburg Justice Barrett's baptism by fire: Protecting the integrity of elections Supreme Court rejects Democrats' bid to reinstate mail-in ballot extension in Wisconsin MORE and Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughVermont official asks Kavanaugh to correct claim about state's voting procedures Supreme Court won't fast-track GOP bid to block Pennsylvania mail ballot extension Pence seeks to lift GOP in battle for Senate MORE and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Justices Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgPence seeks to lift GOP in battle for Senate 'Packing' federal courts is already a serious problem McConnell and Schumer's relationship shredded after court brawl MORE and Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchSupreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline Vermont official asks Kavanaugh to correct claim about state's voting procedures Supreme Court won't fast-track GOP bid to block Pennsylvania mail ballot extension 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.