Jermain Richards lived a hell that no one should ever have to live. Accused of murder and prosecuted on the slimmest of evidence including two medical examiners who could not state how the victim allegedly died, the jury in his first criminal trial failed to reach a unanimous verdict after six days of deliberations and an instruction from the judge on the importance of reaching one. The judge then did what criminal practice requires. He declared a mistrial and discharged the jury. He then rescheduled Richards for a second trial.
Richards’ second trial featured the same evidence. Once again, the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict after an equally lengthy deliberation and two instructions from the judge on the importance of reaching a unanimous verdict. The judge again declared a mistrial, discharged the jury, and rescheduled Richards for a third trial.
Between the second and third trials, the state of Connecticut managed to polish the testimony of its star witness – a literal used car salesman who had been facing major felony embezzlement charges. Instead of prosecuting him to the full extent of his serious crimes, the state gave him a cooperation agreement that allowed him to avoid jail completely in exchange for his enhanced testimony against Jermain Richards. The newly buffed evidence allowed the state to succeed where it twice failed. The third jury convicted Richards of murder after less than 24 hours of deliberations.
My firm now represents Richards in appealing his conviction. Yesterday, we petitioned the United States Supreme Court to review his case on the grounds that his successive trials violate the Fifth Amendment’s Double Jeopardy Clause and place a burden on him to prove his innocence, which violates due process. What happened to Richards is a travesty of constitutional proportions, and we are confident that, if the U.S. Supreme Court grants review, he will prevail.
A full copy of his petition is below, and I am incredibly proud to have played a critical role in presenting his case to the U.S. Supreme Court along with my colleagues, Norm Pattis, Kevin Smith, and Austin Voss: