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Supreme Court upholds state and federal prosecutions over the same incident

David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court refused Monday to overturn its long-standing rule that permits both federal prosecutors and state attorneys general to bring charges for the same crime, despite the Constitution's shield against double jeopardy.

The 7-2 decision preserved a rule that allowed federal prosecutors to bring criminal charges against two Los Angeles police officers who had been acquitted by a state jury in Simi Valley for the beating of motorist Rodney King.

These dual prosecutions were also crucial during the civil rights era when federal prosecutors intervened in criminal cases in Southern states.

Speaking for the court, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the two offenses were usually not the same. For example, federal prosecutors were acting to protect civil rights while state authorities might have brought a traditional criminal prosecution.

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