Menna v. New York, 423 U.S. 61 (1975)

2012-08-02 10:10:16

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits double jeopardy, wherein criminal defendants are prosecuted twice for the same crime. In Menna v. New York, 423 U.S. 61 (1975), Menna appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, claiming that his Fifth Amendment right was violated. When he was before a grand jury, Menna refused to answer questions in connection with a murder conspiracy investigation. He was then given immunity from prosecution and ordered to return to the grand jury and testify about the same investigation. He refused to obey the court order and was charged with contempt of court and sentenced to jail for a period of thirty days.

The grand jury then indicted Menna for refusing to answer questions before them. Menna pleaded guilty to the indictment and was sentenced, but appealed his case under the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment. Menna claimed that it was unconstitutional for the grand jury to indict him on charges on which he had already plead guilty and served his sentence. The New York Court of Appeals, based on the merits of Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S. 258 (1973), upheld the conviction. Tollett held that a double jeopardy claim was ‘‘waived’’ when a defendant pleaded guilty.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the New York court and precluded the state from prosecuting individuals more that once on the same charge. The Court thus ruled that under federal law, a conviction must be set aside even if the petitioner pled guilty.


Cases and Statutes Cited

  • Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S. 258 (1973)

See also Double Jeopardy (v) Early History, Background, Framing