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Benton v. Maryland
Transcript of Benton v. Maryland
Summary of Case
This is the first case to incorporate the immunity from double jeopardy as implied in the Constitution down to the states. So, originally double jeopardy wasn’t allowed at the federal level (Supreme Court), but John Dalmer Benton argued that the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment does apply to the states. In 1968, Benton was put on trial for larceny and burglary. He was not found guilty of larceny. For this, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Shortly after the case, the Maryland Court of Appeals had ruled in Schowgurow v. State that the portion of the Maryland Constitution which had required all jurors to swear their belief in the existence of God was itself unconstitutional. Since the jurors in Benton's case had been selected under this provision, he was given the option of demanding a new trial. He did, of course, but in this trial he was found both guilty of larceny and burglary and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Even though this case was a double jeopardy, there was no protection against it in Maryland's state constitution to prevent it. But the Court ruled that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment incorporated Double Jeopardy Clause in the 5th Amendment so this made it enforcable against the states.
Impact on Society
Because of this case, we now have double jeopardy applied at the state level.
Amendments Involved in Case
In this case, the 5th and 14th amendments were incorporated. The Double Jeopardy Clause, being put on trial twice for the same thing, is a part of the 5th Amendment and this was what was being questioned.
Benton was put on trial once and found guilty for burglary, not larceny. Then, again he was put on trial and found guilty of both larceny and burglary. This added 5 years to his prison sentence. He believed that the double jeopardy should be applied at the state level. The Court ruled in his favor and he only served for the original 10 years.
The Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment was also applied in this case. The Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment states that local and state governments can not deprived persons of life, liberty, or property without legislative authorization.
In the Benton v. Maryland case, the Court ruled that this clause of the 14th Amendment incorporated the Double Jeopardy Clause of the 5th Amendment at the state and local levels.