It is being reported across the country that potential new evidence in a case that captured the world’s attention in the 1990s is under examination by local law enforcement. This new twist in a decades old story continues to fuel the flame of interest in what exactly happened in that case.
The case involved an ex-football player who was accused of killing his ex-wife and her boyfriend. The case became must follow soon after the death, during the investigation, and throughout the trial. The entire trial was broadcast over TV, and after months of evidence, investigations, and testimony, a jury acquitted the man of the charges.
Getting an acquittal in a criminal defense case is the best case scenario for the defendant. In that case, the state cannot bring charges against the person again for the same crime. This is known as double jeopardy and is granted as a right in the U.S. Constitution.
The new evidence being reported is a knife that was found when the man’s homes was raised to the ground after the trial. According to reports, the man who found the knife gave it to an off-duty police officer who kept it in his garage. Now, after all these years, that person turned the knife in and it is being examined as to whether it could be evidence in the case. But even if it is, as explained above, the ex-football play could not be prosecuted for the same crime.
This case and news stories raise the question of whether the same principle applies in a civil case. Does a defendant to a civil case receive the same protection as that of a criminal defendant? The answer to this question is basically yes, with some caveats.
The civil side of the law differs from the criminal side in many ways. Criminal cases are investigated by police and brought by government prosecutors. Criminal cases can end in both monetary fines and jail time. In contrast, civil cases involve one citizen against another and only make demands for money, injunctions, or some other civil remedy. Jail time is not part of the civil legal system.
But on the civil side of things there is a legal maxim that states a person only gets one bite at the apple. This means that a plaintiff usually only gets one chance to make a complaint against someone, take them to court, and prove evidence to a jury verdict. Once an issue is fully litigated, it is protected from future actions by a legal doctrine known as res judicata or collateral estoppel.
Understanding this principle should underscore how important it is for anyone with a legal claim to choose the right law firm. With only one bite at the apple, so to speak, a client must make that choice wisely. At The Pittman Firm we are experienced in the area of accident and injury law, and can represent issues ranging from the simple to the very complex. If you live in the Panama City area and have been injured in an accident, contact us. We will go over your case with your and help you understand your legal options going forward.
See related blog posts: Shocking: Driver for Hire Accused of Multiple Murders; Medical Marijuana: Can Doctors Legally Prescribe it?.