503 U.S. 378 (1992), 90-1599, United States v. Felix

Docket Nº:No. 90-1599
Citation:503 U.S. 378, 112 S.Ct. 1377, 118 L.Ed.2d 25, 60 U.S.L.W. 4259
Party Name:United States v. Felix
Case Date:March 25, 1992
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 378

503 U.S. 378 (1992)

112 S.Ct. 1377, 118 L.Ed.2d 25, 60 U.S.L.W. 4259

United States



No. 90-1599

United States Supreme Court

March 25, 1992

Argued Jan. 14, 1992




During the summer of 1987, respondent Felix manufactured methamphetamine at an Oklahoma facility. After Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents shut down that facility, Felix ordered additional chemicals and equipment from a DEA informant for delivery in Missouri. Federal Government officials observed the delivery, arrested him, and charged him with the offense of attempting to manufacture an illegal drug. At his trial in Missouri, the Government, in order to establish Felix's criminal intent, introduced evidence that he had manufactured methamphetamine in Oklahoma, and he was convicted. Subsequently, he was named in, inter alia, six counts of an indictment filed in a Federal District Court in Oklahoma. Count 1 charged him with conspiracy to manufacture, possess, and distribute methamphetamine. Two of the overt acts supporting this charge were based on the same conduct that had been the subject of the Missouri prosecution. The other counts charged him with substantive drug offenses, and at trial the Government introduced much of the same evidence of the Missouri and Oklahoma transactions that had been introduced at the Missouri trial. Felix was convicted, but the Court of Appeals reversed, relying on language in Grady v. Corbin, 495 U.S. 508, 521, that the Double Jeopardy Clause bars a subsequent prosecution where the government,

to establish an essential element of an offense charged in that prosecution, will prove conduct that constitutes an offense for which the defendant has already been prosecuted.

With respect to the conspiracy count, the court observed that, in both trials, the Government proved that Felix had learned to make, and had manufactured, methamphetamine in Oklahoma, and had sought to purchase more chemicals and equipment in Missouri. The court also noted that the direct evidence supporting the substantive offenses -- that Felix had purchased chemicals and equipment during the spring of 1987 and had manufactured methamphetamine in Oklahoma -- had been introduced at the Missouri trial to show intent.

Held: The Double Jeopardy Clause does not bar Felix's prosecution on either the [112 S.Ct. 1379] substantive drug offenses or the conspiracy charge. Pp. 384-392.

Page 379

(a) None of the substantive offenses for which Felix was prosecuted in Oklahoma is in any sense the same offense for which he was prosecuted in Missouri. The actual crimes charged in each case were different in both time and place, and no common conduct links them. In addition, mere overlap in proof between two prosecutions does not establish a double jeopardy violation. Dowling v. United States, 493 U.S. 342. Thus, the Court of Appeals erred to the extent that it assumed that, if the Government offers in evidence in one prosecution acts of misconduct that might ultimately be charged as criminal offenses in a second prosecution, the latter prosecution is barred. And it gave an extravagant reading to Grady, supra, which disclaimed any intention of adopting a "`same evidence'" test, id. 495 U.S. at 521 and n. 12. Pp. 384-387.

(b) A substantive crime and a conspiracy to commit that crime are not the "same offense" for double jeopardy purposes, see, e.g., United States v. Bayer, 331 U.S. 532; Pinkerton v. United States, 328 U.S. 640, 643, even if they are based on the same underlying incidents, because the "essence" of a conspiracy offense "is in the agreement or confederation to commit a crime," Bayer, supra, 331 U.S. at 542. This established doctrine predates, and was not questioned in, Grady, supra. In addition, while Grady -- which involved a State's reliance on a defendant's two traffic offense convictions to sustain later-filed homicide and assault charges arising from the same accident -- may be useful in cases arising from a "single course of conduct," it is much less helpful in analyzing prosecutions involving multilayered conduct, such as the conspiracy prosecution here. Thus, the Court of Appeals erred in essentially reading Grady as substituting for the "same offence" language of the Double Jeopardy Clause a test based on whether the two prosecutions involve the same conduct. Pp. 387-391.

926 F.2d 1522 (CA 10 1991), reversed.

REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, O'CONNOR, SCALIA, KENNEDY, SOUTER, and THOMAS, JJ., joined, and in Parts I and II of which STEVENS and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which BLACKMUN, J., joined, post, p. 392.

Page 380

REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

THE CHIEF JUSTICE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides: "[N]or shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb."

During the summer of 1987, respondent Frank Dennis Felix operated a facility in Beggs, Oklahoma, at which he manufactured methamphetamine in violation of applicable federal statutes. In July, this facility was raided and shut down by DEA agents. Felix thereupon ordered precursor chemicals and equipment for the manufacture of methamphetamine to be delivered to him at Joplin, Missouri. DEA agents observed the transfer of these items and arrested Felix shortly afterwards. He was charged and tried in the Western District of Missouri for the offense of attempting to manufacture the illegal drug between August 26 and August 31, 1987. This charge was based upon the delivery of the materials to him at Joplin. He was tried, found guilty, and his conviction [112 S.Ct. 1380] and sentence were affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

In February, 1989, Felix was charged in the Eastern District of Oklahoma with both conspiracy and substantive counts in connection with the operation of the facility at Beggs. He was tried and convicted, but the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed most of the counts on which he had been found guilty because of its view that trial on these counts constituted double jeopardy in violation of the Fifth Amendment. We hold that prosecution of a defendant for conspiracy, where certain of the overt acts relied

Page 381

upon by the Government are based on substantive offenses for which the defendant has been previously convicted, does not violate the Double .Jeopardy Clause.


At Felix's trial for attempting to manufacture methamphetamine in Missouri, the Government showed that, on August 26, 1987, Felix asked to purchase chemicals and equipment needed for the manufacture of methamphetamine from George Dwinnells, a Drug Enforcement Administration informant. Felix made a downpayment of $7,500 toward the purchase, and in later telephone conversations instructed Dwinnells to deliver the items to a Joplin, Missouri, hotel on August 31, 1987. Dwinnells met Felix at the hotel on that date with the merchandise. After Felix inspected the items and hitched his car to the trailer in which the items had been transported, government officials arrested him.

Felix's defense in the Missouri case was that "he never had criminal intent, but had been acting under the mistaken belief that he was working in a covert DEA operation." United States v. Felix, 867 F.2d 1068, 1074 (CA8 1989). In order to establish Felix's criminal intent with respect to the items delivered in Missouri, the Government introduced evidence that Felix had manufactured methamphetamine in Oklahoma earlier in 1987. See Fed.Rule Evid. 404(b) (evidence of prior acts is admissible to show "motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident"). The evidence showed that, during the spring of 1987, Felix had purchased precursor materials from Dwinnells, and had furnished those items to Paul Roach in exchange for lessons on how to manufacture methamphetamine. Roach, who testified for the Government at Felix's Missouri trial, stated that he and Felix had produced methamphetamine in a trailer near Beggs, Oklahoma. Government agents had seized the trailer, which was indeed being used as a methamphetamine lab, on July 13, 1987.

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The agents did not arrest Felix at that time, however; he later told Dwinnell that he had avoided arrest by hiding in the nearby woods. In accordance with Rule 404(b), the District Court instructed the jury that the evidence of the Oklahoma transactions was admissible only to show Felix's state of mind with respect to the chemicals and equipment he attempted to purchase in Missouri. The jury convicted Felix, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed. Id. at 1070-1076.

The Government subsequently named Felix in 8 counts of an 11-count indictment filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. Count 1 charged that Felix and five others conspired, between May 1, 1987, and August 31, 1987, to manufacture, possess and distribute methamphetamine. Felix was named in nine of the overt acts supporting the conspiracy charge; two of those nine overt acts were based on conduct that had been the subject of the earlier Missouri prosecution. Overt act 17 charged that,

[o]n August 26, 1987, Frank Dennis Felix, while in Tulsa, Oklahoma, provided money for the purchase of chemicals and equipment necessary in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

Overt act 18 charged that,

[o]n August 31, 1987, Frank Dennis Felix, while at a location in Missouri, possessed chemicals and equipment necessary in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

Along with the conspiracy charge, Felix was named in seven substantive counts. Counts 2 through alleged that, on or about July 13, 1987, in the Eastern [112 S.Ct. 1381] District...

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