When Double Jeopardy Isn't


Lemrick Nelson, the man accused of stabbing Yankel Rosenbaum to death during the 1991 anti-Jewish riots in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, has adopted a dramatic new strategy to beat the rap in his third trial, now under way in federal court. This time, he admits he did it, but he denies that the attack had anything to do with Rosenbaum's religion.

Why should that matter? Because Nelson was acquitted of murdering Rosenbaum in state court, and now he's being tried in federal court for violating Rosenbaum's civil rights. That's not double jeopardy, you see, because the charge and venue are different. Rosenbaum's first conviction in federal court was overturned on appeal, so now the government is trying a third time.

As outrageous as it would be to see Nelson get away with murder, his legal trickery seems a fitting response to the sophistry that allows an acquitted man to be tried again for the same crime.