Today, the United States Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of a Virginia man sentenced to death without addressing his double jeopardy claims. The case involves Paul Michael Powell who was convicted in Virginia of the 1999 murder of 16 year old Stacie Reed and raping her 16 year old sister. Powell was convicted of the murder and the rape in 2000. However, the Virginia Supreme Court overturned the verdict because they found that the prosecution had failed to prove that Powell had raped Stacie or did anything else that would make him eligible for the death penalty. Thinking that he had escaped the death penalty, Powell send a long and rambling letter to the prosecutor laced with profanity graphically describing the murder of Stacie Reed. In the letter he talked about how he held down Stacie and threatened to rape her before stabbing her in the heart. Armed with the letter, the prosecutor recharged Powell with the attempted rape and the murder of Stacie, death penalty qualifying offenses, and had Powell convicted of the crimes and sentenced to death in 2003. The Supreme Court justices did not make any comment in dismissing his appeal and dismissing his claims that he had been subject to Double Jeopardy for being tried twice for the same crime.
This is an example of how the law is not blind. From a technical standpoint, Powell was subject to Double Jeopardy. He was placed on trial twice for the same crime. It would have been interesting to have the Supreme Court issue a ruling setting forth the legal reasons for upholding the second conviction of Powell and sentencing him to death.
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