Ball v. United States

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Ball v. United States
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued March 2, 1896
Decided May 25, 1896
Full case nameMillard Fillmore Ball, John C. Ball, and Robert E. Boutwel v. United States
Citations163 U.S. 662 (more)
16 S. Ct. 1192; 41 L. Ed. 300
Case history
PriorIn Error to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Texas
Court membership
Chief Justice
Melville Fuller
Associate Justices
Stephen J. Field · John M. Harlan
Horace Gray · David J. Brewer
Henry B. Brown · George Shiras Jr.
Edward D. White · Rufus W. Peckham
Case opinion
MajorityGray, joined by unanimous
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. V

Ball v. United States, 163 U.S. 662 (1896), is one of the earliest United States Supreme Court case interpreting the Double Jeopardy Clause.

In 1889, defendants Millard Fillmore Ball, John C. Ball, and Robert E. Boutwell were indicted for the murder of William T. Box. The jury acquitted Millard Fillmore Ball and convicted John C. Ball and Robert E. Boutwell. The convicted defendants appealed to the Supreme Court, which reversed their convictions in 1891, holding that the indictment was insufficient. All three were indicted for the murder a second time. All three plead prior jeopardy. The trial court rejected all three pleas, and all three were convicted the second time.

On the second appeal, the Supreme Court reversed Millard Fillmore Ball's conviction. Departing from the common law rule of England, and from early decisions of the state supreme courts of New York and Massachusetts, the Court held that—under the Double Jeopardy Clause—the insufficiency of the first indictment could not remove the jeopardy bar of acquittal, as long as the first court had jurisdiction.

The Court rejected John C. Ball and Robert E. Boutwell's double jeopardy arguments, holding that they could be retried after their prior convictions were reversed on appeal. The court also rejected their remaining arguments.

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