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Why is it that some cases of homicide are considered federal offenses and others are handled in state or tribal courts? The answer involves the concept of jurisdiction. In its most basic definition, jurisdiction has to do with which court has the ability to hear and decide issues of law and fact. In homicide cases, three jurisdictions may have the ability to hear the case: state, tribal, and federal.

Most people are familiar with the idea of “double jeopardy”: A person cannot be tried twice for the same crime. Double jeopardy comes into play once a person has been either acquitted or convicted of a crime. Yet some defendants are tried twice for what appears to be the same crime. Usually, these cases involve a trial ...

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