May 10, 2010

Renico v. Lett (2010)- Justice Delayed Is Justice

Reginald Lett was charged with murdering a cab driver.  In Lett's first trial, the judge declared a mistrial when the jury foreman told the judge after only 4 hours of deliberation that the jury would be unable to reach a unanimous verdict.  Lett was tried again, and a second jury convicted him of second-degree murder.  

The U.S. Supreme Court denied Lett's claim that the judge in Trial No. 1 violated the Double Jeopardy Clause by forcing Lett to undergo a second trial.  Lett argued that the trial judge erred by declaring a mistrial and subjecting Lett to a second trial after the jury had deliberated for only four hours.   The Supreme Court denied Lett's claim on the ground that "the trial judge's exercise of discretion- while not necessarily correct- was not objectively unreasonable."  (Renico v. Lett, US Supreme Court 2010)  The case demonstrates that trial judges often have broad discretion over how trials are conducted, and that higher courts should only interfere if a trial judge's decision is pertty much off the charts.