WASHINGTON – Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel argued before the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday that the state should be able to retry a 2007 Little Rock murder case.

WASHINGTON – Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel argued before the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday that the state should be able to retry a 2007 Little Rock murder case.

“It went as well as we could have hoped for. There were some tough questions but I felt a number of justices recognized the critical points we were making,” said McDaniel, who went on to praise his staff for their hard work in preparing the case.

The attorney general argued the state’s case to retry Alex Blueford of Jacksonville on capital murder charges in the 2008 death of 20-month-old Matthew McFadden Jr. Blueford’s first trial ended in a mistrial after jurors reached an impasse over manslaughter charges. The jury’s foreman had earlier told the judge the panel had voted unanimously to dismiss capital murder and first-degree murder charges.

McDaniel had participated in three intense “moot court” simulations in recent weeks that, he said, helped hone his arguments that the state should be able to retry Blueford.

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled last year that Blueford should be retried on the original murder charges. Clifford Sloan, an attorney representing Blueford, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the U.S. Constitution protected Blueford from being tried twice for the same crime.

The hour-long oral arguments – split evenly between McDaniel and Sloan – provoked a lively back and forth among the Justices. All but Clarence Thomas, who famously never speaks during such arguments, weighed in.

Most of the discussion centered on whether the forewoman’s disclosure of jury votes constituted a verdict.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suggested that the jury never reached a final verdict on capital murder or the lesser charges.

The forewoman announced a vote but the jury continued to deliberate and could have changed its mind during that time, he said.

“The one characteristic of a verdict that seems perfectly clear to me is that it is final,” Scalia said.

Sloan argued that the announced vote was an acquittal because it was an explicit statement that was not contradicted by later statements.

McDaniel said the fact that the jury returned to deliberate meant they had essentially hit the restart button.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan seemed skeptical of McDaniel’s assertion. They pointed out that Arkansas requires juries to find reasonable doubt on the more serious charges before a jury moves to lesser charges.

“It’s clear that they all thought that they had to unanimously agree on something before they could go to the next crime. And, again, there is no suggestion in what anybody said that they could go back up,” Kagan said.

Blueford has been held without bond in the Pulaski County Jail since 2008 while his appeal has been ongoing.

This was the first time that McDaniel has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Aside from staff, his wife and father were in the courtroom to hear the oral arguments.

“I am very proud,” his father Bobby McDaniel said outside the court.