SMITH v. MASSACHUSETTS
CERTIORARI TO THE APPEALS COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS
No. 03-8661.Argued December 1, 2004--Decided February 22, 2005
Petitioner was tried before a Massachusetts jury on charges related to a shooting, including unlawful possession of a firearm. At the conclusion of the prosecution's case, petitioner moved for a not-guilty finding on the firearm count because "the evidence [was] insufficient as a matter of law to sustain a conviction," Mass. Rule Crim. Proc. 25(a). The trial judge granted the motion, finding no evidence to support the requirement of the unlawful possession count that the firearm have a barrel shorter than 16 inches. The prosecution rested, and the trial proceeded on the other counts. Before closing argument, the prosecution argued that under Massachusetts precedent, the victim's testimony that the defendant shot him with a "pistol" or "revolver" sufficed to establish barrel length. The judge "reversed" her previous ruling, allowing the firearm count to go to the jury. The jury convicted petitioner on all counts. In affirming, the Massachusetts Appeals Court held that the Double Jeopardy Clause was not implicated because the trial judge's correction of her ruling had not subjected petitioner to a second prosecution or proceeding, and held that Rule 25 did not prohibit the judge from reconsidering her decision.