State v. Smith

State v. Smith was a murder trial, which had been interrupted by the pandemic, where the jury had been impaneled and sworn, and the trial was well underway. The defendants were granted leave to appeal the trial court’s order declaring a mistrial and denying their motions to dismiss the indictment on double jeopardy grounds. The Appellate Division held that, in analyzing whether to sua sponte terminate a trial due to the COVID-19 pandemic after a jury has been impaneled and sworn, trial judges should consider five factors, which the Court listed. In the defendants’ case, the trial court considered these factors, and the Court ruled there was no doubt that the trial court’s primary motive for declaring the mistrial was a sincere effort to protect the defendants. Thus, double jeopardy would not be violated by a retrial because, under N.J.S. 2C:1-9(d)(3), the termination was “required by a sufficient legal reason and a manifest or absolute or overriding necessity”.

Smith