The Washington Supreme Court recently issued an important criminal law decision which will free a man who has been in prison since 2006, based on the "bedrock" constitutional principle of double jeopardy.
Mathew Moi was tried for murder in 2006. The prosecution theory was that he shot the victim. No physical evidence tied him to the gun. He was also charged with illegal possession of the same firearm the prosecution contended was the murder weapon. His lawyer moved for a separate trial on the gun charge because part of the proof of the firearm charge was that Moi had been convicted, while a juvenile, of a felony robbery. The State opposed severance of the two counts, and suggested that Moi could have a bench trial (non-jury trial) on the firearm charge which would reduce the possibility of the jury being prejudiced by the juvenile robbery conviction. The trial court agreed to this procedure.
The first trial ended in a hung jury on the homicide count, but the trial judge found Moi not guilty of the illegal possession of the firearm, which the prosecution contended was the murder weapon.