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SEATTLE (Reuters) - The US government refiled charges on Friday against an Army officer who refused to fight in Iraq after his first court martial ended in a mistrial.
The Army charged First Lt. Ehren Watada with one count of missing movements and four counts of conduct unbecoming an officer. Watada, 28, faces a dishonorable discharge and up to six years in a military prison if convicted on all counts.
The phrase "double jeopardy" stems from the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: "nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." This clause is intended to limit prosecutorial abuse by the government in repeated prosecution for the same offense, as a means of harassment or oppression.
As double jeopardy applies only to charges that were the subject of an earlier final judgment, there are many situations in which it does not apply despite the appearance of a retrial. For example, a second trial held after a mistrial does not violate the double jeopardy clause, because a mistrial ends a trial prematurely without a judgment of guilty or not guilty.
In the U.S. military, court martials are subject to the same law of double jeopardy, as the U.S Constitution is the supreme law of the military, superceding the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
An important exception occurs in criminal cases in the United States. If the court erroneously declares a mistrial, or if prosecutorial misconduct goaded the defendant into moving for a mistrial, then the US Constitution's protection against double jeopardy bars any retrial; so the prosecution must be terminated.
The judge raised concerns about the document on Wednesday morning, moments before Lt. Watada was set to take the witness stand.