In what can only be described as an unprecedented occurrence, a jury in Fresno signed the wrong paperwork (a ‘not guilty’ form as opposed to the proper ‘guilty’ form) after deliberating in a burglary case against 37-year-old Bobby Lee Pearson and 31-year-old Terrel Minnieweather. Minnieweather was found guilty, but due to the debacle, Pearson was released. The irony is that a person or persons unknown, Pearson was stabbed to death the very next morning (CA Penal Code 187). Legal pundits are blaming the mix-up on a “June jury,” meaning the kind of jury that is comprised of mainly college students who have, up until the summer months, managed to delay jury duty until the end of the school year.
Minnieweather, as convicted, could end up spending anywhere from 30 years to life in state prison (mainly due to his criminal history), while Pearson won the day with a technicality. The interesting legal question concerns, not how the jury handled the case or was misinformed, nor that a potentially guilty man went free. Instead, the most fascinating part of this case is that Pearson could not have been tried again had he lived. Due to the way that the justice system operates, a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice, this is what is known commonly as ‘double jeopardy.’ When a person has been tried once for a crime, they cannot be tried again for the same offense. Lucky for Pearson, this was the case. Not so lucky for Pearson, he met with foul play even after having been released.
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