789 F.2d 722 (9th Cir. 1986), 84-2069, Adamson v. Ricketts

Docket Nº:84-2069.
Citation:789 F.2d 722
Party Name:John Harvey ADAMSON, Petitioner-Appellant, v. James G. RICKETTS, Director, Arizona Department of Corrections, et al., Respondents-Appellees.
Case Date:May 09, 1986
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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789 F.2d 722 (9th Cir. 1986)

John Harvey ADAMSON, Petitioner-Appellant,


James G. RICKETTS, Director, Arizona Department of

Corrections, et al., Respondents-Appellees.

No. 84-2069.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

May 9, 1986

Argued En Banc and Submitted Sept. 17, 1985.

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Timothy J. Foley, San Francisco, Cal., Timothy K. Ford, Seattle, Wash., for petitioner-appellant.

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Robert K. Corbin, Atty. Gen., William J. Schafer, III, Chief Counsel, Jack Roberts, Asst. Atty. Gen., Phoenix, Ariz., for respondents-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona.


FERGUSON, Circuit Judge:

Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the District Court of Arizona after exhausting all his state remedies. He contends that his conviction for first degree murder and death sentence violated various provisions of the federal Constitution. The district court denied his petition, and a panel of this court affirmed that denial, Adamson v. Ricketts, 758 F.2d 441 (9th Cir.1985). That decision was vacated when the majority of the judges of the circuit voted to have the appeal determined by an en banc panel. We reverse the district court and direct the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.


Petitioner Adamson was arrested and charged with the 1976 car bombing murder of Don Bolles, an investigative reporter in Arizona. In January 1977 Adamson and the state entered into a plea agreement 1 under which Adamson would testify against two other individuals and plead guilty to second degree murder. In exchange, Adamson would receive a sentence of 48-49 years imprisonment, with actual incarceration time to be 20 years, 2 months.

On January 15, 1977, Superior Court Judge Ben Birdsall reviewed the plea agreement, but conditioned his acceptance of its provisions until he determined the appropriateness of the sentence. Four days later, Judge Birdsall found the sentence appropriate and accepted the guilty plea and plea agreement provisions.

After the court's acceptance of the plea agreement, for the next three years Adamson cooperated with authorities. On the basis of Adamson's testimony, Max Dunlap and James Robison were convicted of the first degree murder of Bolles. While the Dunlap and Robison convictions were pending on appeal, the state moved to have Adamson's sentence imposed. Judge Birdsall sentenced Adamson to the agreed term of 48-49 years on December 7, 1978.

On February 25, 1980, the Arizona Supreme Court reversed the convictions of Max Dunlap and James Robison and remanded the cases for new trials. State v. Dunlap, 125 Ariz. 104, 608 P.2d 41 (1980); State v. Robison, 125 Ariz. 107, 608 P.2d 44 (1980). When the state sought to secure Adamson's testimony in the retrials, Adamson's lawyer stated that his client believed that the plea agreement terminated his obligations once he was sentenced. He further stated that Adamson requested additional consideration, including release, in exchange for his testimony at the retrials. 2 The state, in a letter to Adamson's attorneys dated April 9, 1980, stated that it considered Adamson to have breached the plea agreement by refusing to testify and that Adamson would be prosecuted for first degree murder. 3

A few days later, the state called Adamson as a witness at a pretrial hearing in the Dunlap and Robison retrials. Adamson reconfirmed his previous testimony concerning

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the Bolles killing but asserted a Fifth Amendment privilege when questioned about another crime. After examining the state's letter of April 9, 1980, Superior Court Judge Robert L. Myers denied the state's motion to compel Adamson to testify. Judge Myers concluded that Adamson could legitimately assert his Fifth Admendment rights unless the state granted him immunity from prosecution. Although the state sought review of Judge Myers' denial of the motion to compel Adamson to testify, the Arizona Supreme Court declined to accept jurisdiction of the Special Action Petition. Adamson v. Superior Court, 125 Ariz. 579, 582, 611 P.2d 932, 935 (1980) (en banc).

The state filed a new information charging Adamson with first degree murder, id., which he challenged by a Special Action in the Arizona Supreme Court, id. at 579, 611 P.2d at 933. The court held that Adamson, by refusing to testify, breached the plea agreement and that he waived the defense of double jeopardy. Id. at 584, 611 P.2d at 937. The court vacated Adamson's second degree murder sentence, judgment of conviction, and guilty plea, and reinstated the open murder charge. Following that decision, Adamson offered to accept the state's interpretation of the agreement and to testify against Dunlap and Robison. The state refused Adamson's offer and proceeded with the charge of first degree murder.

Adamson unsuccessfully sought federal habeas corpus review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2254, and this court affirmed in an unpublished memorandum disposition the district court's denial of the petition. Adamson v. Hill, 667 F.2d 1030 (9th Cir.1981). On October 17, 1980, Adamson was convicted of first degree murder. At sentencing, in accordance with the Arizona statute, Ariz.Rev.Stat.Ann. Sec. 13-703(C), Judge Birdsall concluded that two aggravating circumstances--(1) the defendant committed the offense as consideration for the receipt, or in expectation of the receipt, of anything of pecuniary value, and (2) the defendant committed the offense in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner--were present to invoke a death sentence. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed. State v. Adamson, 136 Ariz. 250, 665 P.2d 972, cert. denied, 464 U.S. 865, 104 S.Ct. 204, 78 L.Ed.2d 178 (1983). The petitioner then instituted the present federal habeas corpus proceeding.

The issues before this court are (1) whether the admission of certain evidence at trial violated the Confrontation Clause; (2) whether the Arizona statute denied the petitioner's right to a jury trial by permitting judicial factfinding to determine eligibility for a death sentence; (3) whether the Arizona statute's aggravating factor of heinous, cruel or depraved manner is unconstitutionally vague; (4) whether the imposition of a death sentence following Adamson's assertion of his Fifth Amendment rights constitutes prosecutorial or judicial vindictiveness; 4 (5) whether the Arizona statute violates the Eighth Amendment by requiring a death sentence if aggravating circumstances are present; and (6) whether prosecution for first degree murder after Adamson's guilty plea and conviction for second degree murder violated the prohibition against double jeopardy. Because the state's actions violated the Double Jeopardy Clause, we do not discuss or decide the validity of the remaining issues.


The Double Jeopardy Clause, which applies to state proceedings, Benton v. Maryland, 395 U.S. 784, 89 S.Ct. 2056, 23 L.Ed.2d 707 (1969), provides that no person shall "be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." U.S. Const. amend. V. The clause incorporates three separate guarantees: "It protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal, against a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction, and against multiple punishments

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for the same offense." Justices of Boston Municipal Court v. Lydon, 466 U.S. 294, 306-07, 104 S.Ct. 1805, 1812-13, 80 L.Ed.2d 311 (1984) (citing Illinois v. Vitale, 447 U.S. 410, 415, 100 S.Ct. 2260, 2264, 65 L.Ed.2d 228 (1980)); see United States v. Brooklier, 637 F.2d 620, 621 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 980, 101 S.Ct. 1514, 67 L.Ed.2d 815 (1980).

Implicit in the prohibition against prosecution for the same offense following conviction is the "constitutional policy of finality for the defendant's benefit." United States v. Jorn, 400 U.S. 470, 479, 91 S.Ct. 547, 554, 27 L.Ed.2d 543 (1971) (plurality opinion); see also United States v. Scott, 437 U.S. 82, 92, 98 S.Ct. 2187, 2194, 57 L.Ed.2d 65 (1978) ("primary purpose of the Double Jeopardy Clause was to protect the integrity of a final judgment"). Without this respect for finality, prosecutors, equipped with substantially greater resources than most individuals, would be permitted and encouraged to reprosecute defendants when the result was any sentence short of the maximum penalty. See United States v. Dinitz, 424 U.S. 600, 606, 96 S.Ct. 1075, 1079, 47 L.Ed.2d 267 (1976) ("Underlying this constitutional safeguard is the belief that 'the State with all its resources and power should not be allowed to make repeated attempts to convict an individual for an alleged offense, thereby subjecting him to embarrassment, expense and ordeal and compelling him to live in a continuing state of anxiety and insecurity, as well as enhancing the possibility that even though innocent he may be found guilty.' ") (quoting Green v. United States, 355 U.S. 184, 187-88, 78 S.Ct. 221, 223-24, 2 L.Ed.2d 199 (1957)).

For a defendant to invoke the double jeopardy bar against a subsequent prosecution, jeopardy must have attached to the first prosecution. When the defendant forgoes the right to have guilt determined by the trier of fact and instead pleads guilty to the charged offense, under some circumstances jeopardy attaches when the judge accepts the plea. See, e.g., United States v. Vaughan, 715 F.2d 1373, 1378 n. 2 (9th Cir.1983); United States v. Bullock, 579 F.2d 1116, 1118 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 967, 99 S.Ct. 456, 58 L.Ed.2d 425 (1978).

Here it appears that the plea was accepted subject to certain conditions. We need not decide whether jeopardy attached upon such an...

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