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Benton v. Maryland

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Significance: The Supreme Court ruled the Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy applied to the states through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.


In a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court overturned Palko v. Connecticut (1937) and struck down Benton's second conviction in Maryland courts as a violation of his Fifth Amendment rights. Justice Thurgood Marshall, in the opinion for the Court, stated that the double jeopardy provisions of the Fifth Amendment applied to the states through the incorporation doctrine of the Fourteenth Amendment, and therefore, a person who had been acquitted of a crime in a state court could not be tried again for the same crime. In Palko, the Court had allowed double jeopardy in Connecticut, saying that the only rights that applied to the states under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment were those closely related to the concept of “ordered liberty.” In reversing Palko, the Court recognized that although it had earlier not believed that a double jeopardy conviction was a universally “shocking” violation of justice, a prohibition against double jeopardy was, in fact, a long-standing practice that was fundamental to the American system of justice.