Skip to content
Name: Smith v. Massachusetts
Case #: Mar-61
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 02/22/2005
Subsequent History: Cross cites: 125 S.Ct. 1129; 160 L.Ed.2d 914

At the conclusion of the prosecution case, appellant moved to dismiss one of the firearm charges for insufficient evidence. The court granted the motion, and the trial proceeded. The prosecutor argued the count to the jury, and the court reversed its position and allowed the count to go to the jury. The Massachusetts appellate court upheld the conviction on that count, holding that the Double Jeopardy Clause was not implicated because the trial court’s correction of its ruling had not subjected petitioner to a second prosecution, and that reconsideration of the decision was not prohibited by the statute. The United States Supreme Court reversed and remanded. Submitting the firearm count to the jury subjected appellant to further “factfinding proceedings going to guilt or innocence” which are prohibited following a midtrial acquittal by the court. Further, the Double Jeopardy Clause prohibited reconsideration of the acquittal later in the trial. The statute permitted only for reconsideration of clerical errors or those arising from oversight or omission. A dismissal could induce a defendant to present a defense to the undismissed charges instead of remaining silent, and the Double Jeopardy Clause cannot be allowed to become a potential snare to those who rely on it. J. Ginsburg, Kennedy, and Breyer dissented, finding that Massachusetts law does not prevent reconsideration, and that appellant was not prejudiced here by the reconsideration.