PR 082418

The state would do likewise if the sequence were reversed, although some states have laws against state prosecution for a criminal act that has been prosecuted by the federal government. Note, however, that although successive prosecutions by separate sovereignties are constitutional, they may be prohibited by state law or internal agency policy. Moreover, a prosecutor may not want to file the case, even if he or she can, because of the expense involved or if “justice has been served,” perhaps because the defendant has been sufficiently punished.


In high-profile cases, however, prosecutors from other jurisdictions may want to try the defendant regardless of the verdict and punishment in other jurisdictions. For example, although Terry Nichols was sentenced to life in prison by the federal government in the Oklahoma City bombing case, the State of Oklahoma tried him again under state law so he could be given the death penalty. He did not get the death penalty but was sentenced to life times 161 by the Oklahoma state court. The terms jurisdiction and venue can be confusing.


Sometimes used interchangeably, they nevertheless represent very different concepts. Jurisdiction refers to the power of a court to try a case. A court’s jurisdiction is determined by the law that created the court and defined its powers. The parties to a litigation cannot vest the court with jurisdiction it does not possess; only legislation can do that.