WASHINGTON, May 24 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled
on Thursday that a defendant can be retried on murder charges
when the jury concludes it was hopelessly deadlocked after
earlier telling the judge it voted against guilt on the most
serious charges, including one that carries the death penalty.
By a 6-3 vote, the high court held that the constitutional
protection against being tried twice for the same crime did not
apply in the case because there had been no official final
verdict of acquittal returned by the jury.
The ruling was a defeat for Alex Blueford, whose murder
trial in Arkansas had ended with a deadlocked jury.
The jury forewoman told the judge the jury voted unanimously
against capital murder and first-degree murder. She said the
jury was deadlocked on a lesser charge, manslaughter, voting 9-3
to convict, and had not voted on a negligent homicide charge.
The judge told the jurors to keep deliberating, but they
later reported they were hopelessly deadlocked, causing the
judge to declare a mistrial.
Blueford argued the forewoman's statement meant that he had
been acquitted on the more serious murder charges. But
prosecutors disagreed and said the statement did not mean the
jury had returned an official verdict on the two murder charges.
The Arkansas Supreme Court agreed with the prosecutors and
ruled Blueford can be retried on the murder as well as the other
charges stemming from the death of his girlfriend's 20-month-old
son in 2007.
In the Supreme Court's majority opinion, Chief Justice John
Roberts ruled Blueford can be retried, that the foreperson's
report was not a final finding of acquittal and that the judge
properly declared a mistrial.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena
Kagan dissented. Sotomayor wrote the court ruling wrongly gave
prosecutors a "second bite at the apple."
The Supreme Court case is Blueford v. Arkansas, No. 10-1320.
For Blueford: Clifford Sloan of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher &
For Arkansas: Dustin McDaniel, Arkansas Attorney General.
(Reporting by James Vicini)
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