Who is the 13th juror? Reverse conviction based on weight of the evidence vs. insufficient evidence.


Held: Where the Florida Supreme Court’s reversal of petitioner’s murder and rape convictions at a jury trial was based on the weight of the evidence, a retrial is not barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment as made applicable to the States by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 457 U. S. 39-47.

(a) A reversal of a conviction based on the weight of the evidence, unlike a reversal based on insufficient evidence where the Double Jeopardy Clause precludes a retrial, Burks v. United States, 437 U. S. 1; Greene . Massey, 437 U. S. 19, does not mean that acquittal was the only proper verdict. Instead, the appellate court sits as a “thirteenth juror” and disagrees with the jury’s resolution of the conflicting testimony. Just as a deadlocked jury does not result in an acquittal barring retrial under the Double Jeopardy Clause, an appellate court’s disagreement with the jurors’ weighing of the evidence does not require the special deference accorded verdicts of acquittal. Moreover, a reversal based on the weight of the evidence can occur only after the State has presented sufficient evidence to support conviction and has persuaded the jury to convict. The reversal simply affords the defendant a second opportunity to seek an acquittal. Giving him this second chance does not amount to governmental oppression of the sort against which the Double Jeopardy Clause was intended to protect. Pp. 457 U. S. 39-44.

(b) There is no merit to petitioner’s arguments that a distinction between the weight and sufficiency of the evidence is unworkable, and will undermine the Burks rule by encouraging appellate judges to base reversals on the weight, rather than the sufficiency, of the evidence. Pp. 457 U. S. 44-45.

Full case here: Tibbs v. Florida, 457 U.S. 31 (1982), https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/457/31/

Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
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