The Double Jeopardy Clause of the U.S. Constitution doesn’t prevent the state from retrying a man who was acquitted by a jury in the murder of one person, but in which the jury couldn’t return a verdict on the defendant's attempted murder charge of another man, the Indiana Supreme Court held Wednesday.
In Tyrus D. Coleman v. State of Indiana, No. 20S03-1008-CR-458, Tyrus Coleman was charged with the murder of Jermaine Jackson and the attempted murder of Jackson’s father, Anthony Dye. Jackson and Dye showed up at Coleman’s property, both armed, to confront a man who had robbed Dye at gunpoint months earlier. Coleman tried to talk Jackson into leaving. Coleman ended up shooting Dye twice and then shot Jackson, who died from his injuries.
Coleman claimed he acted in self defense. He was acquitted in the murder of Jackson but the jury wasn’t able to reach a verdict in his attempted murder charge relating to Dye. He was retried, over Coleman’s motion to dismiss claiming Double Jeopardy violations, and found guilty. The trial court sentenced him to 45 years.
The Indiana Court of Appeals split in reversing Coleman’s attempted murder conviction on grounds of collateral estoppel, but the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Coleman could be retried. They rejected Coleman’s argument that because of the brief interval between the two shootings, that was a single transaction and his general fear of death or bodily harm applied equally to Dye and his son.
At his first trial, Coleman’s attorney specifically addressed the separate shootings and argued each was justified by Coleman’s fear of death or injury from Dye and then Jackson, wrote Justice Robert Rucker. He also noted that the acquittal relating to Jackson’s murder, even if based on self defense, did not amount to the jury determining that Coleman acted in self defense with respect to the attempted murder of Dye.
“Thus, in retrying Coleman the State did not relitigate an issue that was necessarily decided by the jury in the first trial. Instead, the jury was asked to make the determination of whether Coleman acted in self-defense when he shot Dye. This issue was not decided during the first trial. Thus, collateral estoppel did not bar relitigation,” he wrote.
The justices also determined there was no misconduct when the prosecutor didn’t point out an inconsistency in Dye’s testimony between the first and second trials.
Coleman also wanted certain statements admitted regarding words Dye used when he came to Coleman’s property. The trial court sustained the state’s hearsay objection, which was an error, but it was harmless because the evidence was excludable on the grounds of relevance, wrote Justice Rucker.
The high court also found the trial court didn’t err in excluding statements attributable to Jackson because there was nothing contained in those statements suggesting they placed Coleman in fear of Dye, as Coleman argued. The trial court didn’t err in not allowing Coleman to introduce evidence of his acquittal and the justices also concluded that his sentence is appropriate.