Saturday, November 2, 2013

Downum v. United States case brief

Downum v. United States case brief summary
372 U.S. 734 (1963)

Defendant appealed, on double jeopardy grounds, a judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which affirmed defendant's conviction for stealing, forgery, and passing Government checks, and for conspiracy.

After defendant was indicted, a jury was impaneled and sworn, at which time the government announced that it was not ready to proceed because one of its witnesses was not available. The trial court released the jury and rescheduled the trial. Defendant objected on double jeopardy grounds. The trial court overruled his objection, and defendant was convicted. The appellate court affirmed, holding that the release of the first jury after being sworn but before hearing any evidence did not constitute a point at which jeopardy attached.


  • The Court granted certiorari and reversed the appellate court's ruling. 
  • Where the basis for releasing the first jury was because a prosecution witness had not been served with a summons and no other arrangements had been made to assure his presence, defendant was improperly exposed to double jeopardy. 
  • When the district attorney impaneled the jury without first ascertaining whether or not his witnesses were present, he took a chance. 
  • The situation presented was one where the district attorney entered upon the trial of the case without sufficient evidence to convict, and that did not take the case out of the rule with reference to former jeopardy.


The Court reversed the appellate court's judgment.

Recommended Supplements for Criminal Procedure Criminal Procedure: Examples & Explanations, Sixth Edition
Emanuel Law Outline: Criminal Procedure

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