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ASHE V. SWENSON, 397 U. S. 436 (1970)

U.S. Supreme Court

Ashe v. Swenson, 397 U.S. 436 (1970)

Ashe v. Swenson

No. 57

Argued November 13, 1969

Decided April 6, 1970

397 U.S. 436


Three or four men robbed six poker players. Petitioner was separately charged with having robbed one of the players, Knight, who, along with three others, testified for the prosecution that each had been robbed. The State's evidence that petitioner had been one of the robbers was weak. The defense offered no testimony. The trial judge instructed the jury that, if it found that petitioner participated in the robbery, the theft of any money from Knight would sustain a conviction, and that, if petitioner was one of the robbers, he was guilty even though he had not personally robbed Knight. The jury found petitioner "not guilty due to insufficient evidence." Thereafter petitioner, following denial of his motion for dismissal based on the previous acquittal, was tried for having robbed another poker player, Roberts, and was convicted. Following affirmance by the Missouri Supreme Court and unsuccessful collateral attack in the state courts, petitioner brought this habeas corpus action in the District Court, claiming that the second prosecution had violated the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The District Court denied the writ, relying on Hoag v. New Jersey, 356 U. S. 464, which, on virtually identical facts, held that there was no violation of due process. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Thereafter, this Court, in Benton v. Maryland, 395 U. S. 784, held that the Fifth Amendment guarantee against double jeopardy is enforceable against the States through the Fourteenth Amendment, a decision which had fully "retroactive" effect, North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U. S. 711.


1. The Fifth Amendment guarantee against double jeopardy, applicable here through the Fourteenth Amendment by virtue of Benton v. Maryland, supra, embodies collateral estoppel as a constitutional requirement. Pp. 397 U. S. 437-444.

2. Since, on the record in this case, the jury in the first trial had determined by its verdict that petitioner was not one of the robbers, the State, under the doctrine of collateral estoppel, was constitutionally foreclosed from relitigating that issue in another trial. Pp. 397 U. S. 445-447.

399 F.2d 40, reversed and remanded.

Page 397 U. S. 437

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