Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure
VI. TRIAL > Rule 29.
Rule 29. Motion for a Judgment of Acquittal
(a) Before Submission to the Jury.
After the government closes its evidence or after the close of all the evidence, the court on the defendantís motion must enter a judgment of acquittal of any offense for which the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction. The court may on its own consider whether the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction. If the court denies a motion for a judgment of acquittal at the close of the governmentís evidence, the defendant may offer evidence without having reserved the right to do so.
(b) Reserving Decision.
The court may reserve decision on the motion, proceed with the trial (where the motion is made before the close of all the evidence), submit the case to the jury, and decide the motion either before the jury returns a verdict or after it returns a verdict of guilty or is discharged without having returned a verdict. If the court reserves decision, it must decide the motion on the basis of the evidence at the time the ruling was reserved.
(c) After Jury Verdict or Discharge.
(1) Time for a Motion.
A defendant may move for a judgment of acquittal, or renew such a motion, within 7 days after a guilty verdict or after the court discharges the jury, whichever is later, or within any other time the court sets during the 7-day period.
(2) Ruling on the Motion.
If the jury has returned a guilty verdict, the court may set aside the verdict and enter an acquittal. If the jury has failed to return a verdict, the court may enter a judgment of acquittal.
(3) No Prior Motion Required.
A defendant is not required to move for a judgment of acquittal before the court submits the case to the jury as a prerequisite for making such a motion after jury discharge.
(d) Conditional Ruling on a Motion for a New Trial.
(1) Motion for a New Trial.
If the court enters a judgment of acquittal after a guilty verdict, the court must also conditionally determine whether any motion for a new trial should be granted if the judgment of acquittal is later vacated or reversed. The court must specify the reasons for that determination.
The courtís order conditionally granting a motion for a new trial does not affect the finality of the judgment of acquittal.
(A) Grant of a Motion for a New Trial.
If the court conditionally grants a motion for a new trial and an appellate court later reverses the judgment of acquittal, the trial court must proceed with the new trial unless the appellate court orders otherwise.
(B) Denial of a Motion for a New Trial.
If the court conditionally denies a motion for a new trial, an appellee may assert that the denial was erroneous. If the appellate court later reverses the judgment of acquittal, the trial court must proceed as the appellate court directs.
(As amended Feb. 28, 1966, eff. July 1, 1966; Nov. 10, 1986, eff. Dec. 10, 1986; Apr. 29, 1994, eff. Dec. 1, 1994; Apr. 29, 2002, eff. Dec. 1, 2002.) http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcrmp/Rule29.htm
Memorandum on the Repeal of Rule 29
Double Jeopardy and Judicial Verdicts: It's not everyday that you read a news story on Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29, but here's one from today's Boston Globe. (Hat tip: Howard) Rule 29 allows a trial judge to find a criminal defendant not guilty as a matter of law; as long as the judge makes clear that she is making the finding based on her view of the evidence, she does not need to state a reason and the decision is unreviewable by courts of appeal under the Double Jeopardy clause even if it is "based upon an egregiously erroneous foundation". Fong Foo v. United States, 369 U.S. 141 (1962). As the Globe story suggests, Rule 29 is a pretty controversial rule. Some prosecutors see the unreviewability of Rule 29 acquittals as an invitation for trial judges to get rid of cases that they don't like for reasons that have nothing to do with their merits. On the other hand, defense attorneys generally see Rule 29 as an important safety valve on overzealous prosecutions. It's relatively rare for Rule 29 to make the news, though: because acquittals under the Rule can't be appealed, its workings tend to fly under the radar screen. In December, the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing oral argument in a case that addresses one aspect of the Double Jeopardy limits on Rule 29 and related state rules: if a judge enters a judgment of acquittal under Rule 29 or a related state rule, but then soon after changes her mind, can she reinstate the charges? Or does the Double Jeopardy clause block the judge from reinstating the charges as soon as the Rule 29 acquittal is announced? The case is Smith v. Commonwealth, 03-8661. References 1. http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcrmp/Rule29.htm 2. http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2004/10/18/acquittal_by_judge_draws_criticism/ 3. http://www.legalaffairs.org/howappealing/2004_10_01_appellateblog_archive.html#109810062519718489 4. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=369&invol=141 5. http://supreme.lp.findlaw.com/supreme_court/docket/2004/december.html
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