Arizona v. Washington

In Arizona v. Washington, 434 U.S. 497, 54 L. Ed. 2d 717, 98 S. Ct. 824, the defendant was tried in Arizona state court on a charge of murder. During the voir dire examination of prospective jurors, defense counsel made certain improper and prejudicial comments. After opening statements were completed, the prosecutor moved for a mistrial, but the trial court denied the motion. The following morning, the prosecutor renewed his motion. Both the prosecutor and defense counsel argued the merits of the motion before the trial court, which ultimately granted the motion. The Arizona Supreme Court denied review of the trial court's mistrial ruling. In a subsequent habeas corpus proceeding, a federal district court held that the Double Jeopardy Clause protected the defendant from another trial in part because the trial court, before it granted the mistrial, did not consider on the record the possible alternatives to a mistrial. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court reversed, holding that the record showed that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding a manifest necessity for the mistrial: "Defense counsel aired improper and highly prejudicial evidence before the jury, the possible impact of which the trial judge was in the best position to assess. The trial judge did not act precipitately in response to the prosecutor's request for a mistrial. On the contrary, evincing a concern for the possible double jeopardy consequences of an erroneous ruling, he gave both defense counsel and the prosecutor full opportunity to explain their positions on the propriety of a mistrial. We are therefore persuaded by the record that the trial judge acted responsibly and deliberately, and accorded careful consideration to respondent's interest in having the trial concluded in a single proceeding. Since he exercised 'sound discretion' in handling the sensitive problem of possible juror bias created by the improper comment of defense counsel, the mistrial order is supported by the 'high degree' of necessity which is required in a case of this kind." Id. at 835.