Alabama v. Smith

Decision Date12 June 1989
Docket NumberNo. 88-333,88-333
Citation109 S.Ct. 2201,490 U.S. 794,104 L.Ed.2d 865
PartiesALABAMA, Petitioner v. James Lewis SMITH
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

An Alabama grand jury indicted respondent for burglary, rape, and sodomy, all related to a single assault. He agreed to plead guilty to the burglary and rape charges in exchange for the State's agreement to dismiss the sodomy charge. The trial judge granted the State's motion to dismiss the sodomy charge, accepted respondent's guilty plea, and sentenced him to concurrent terms of 30 years' imprisonment on each conviction. Later, respondent succeeded in having his guilty plea vacated and went to trial on the three original charges before the same trial judge. The jury found him guilty on all three counts. This time, the judge imposed a term of life imprisonment for the burglary conviction, plus a concurrent term of life imprisonment on the sodomy conviction and a consecutive term of 150 years' imprisonment on the rape conviction. The judge explained that he was imposing a harsher sentence than that imposed following the guilty plea because the evidence presented at trial, of which he had been unaware at the time sentence was imposed on the guilty plea, convinced him that the original sentence had been too lenient. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the convictions and the life sentence for burglary and sodomy but remanded the rape conviction for resentencing. The Alabama Supreme Court granted respondent's request for review of the burglary sentence and reversed and remanded, holding that the increased sentence created a presumption of vindictiveness similar to that set forth in North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711, 89 S.Ct. 2072, 23 L.Ed.2d 656 (1969).

Held: The Pearce presumption of vindictiveness does not apply when a sentence imposed after trial is greater than that previously imposed after a guilty plea. Simpson v. Rice, decided with North Carolina v. Pearce, supra, overruled. Pp. 798-803.

(a) Application of that presumption is limited to circumstances in which there is a "reasonable likelihood" that an unexplained increase in sentence is the product of actual vindictiveness on the part of the sentencing authority. Where there is no such reasonable likelihood, the defendant has the burden of proving actual vindictiveness without aid of a presumption. Pp. 798-800.

(b) In cases like the present one, where the relevant sentencing information available to the judge after a guilty plea will usually be considerably less than that available after a trial, and where leniency that may have been shown in response to a guilty plea is no longer appropriate, there are enough justifications for a heavier second sentence that it cannot be said to be more likely than not that the judge who imposes such a sentence is motivated by vindictiveness. Pp. 800-803.

557 So.2d 13, (Ala., 1988), reversed and remanded.

REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, STEVENS, O'CONNOR, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 803.

P. David Bjurberg, Montgomery, Ala., for petitioner.

Paul J. Larkin, Jr., Washington, D.C., for U.S. as amicus curiae, supporting petitioner, by special leave of Court.

Delores R. Boyd, Montgomery, Ala., for respondent.

Chief Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

James Lewis Smith pleaded guilty to charges of burglary and rape. In exchange for the plea, a sodomy charge was dropped. Later, Smith succeeded in having his guilty plea vacated. He went to trial on the three original charges, was convicted on each, and received a longer sentence on the burglary conviction than had been given a ter his guilty plea. The Alabama Supreme Court held that this increased sentence created a presumption of vindictiveness similar to that set forth in North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711, 89 S.Ct. 2072, 23 L.Ed.2d 656 (1969). We hold that no presumption of vindictiveness arises when the first sentence was based upon a guilty plea, and the second sentence follows a trial.

In 1985, an Alabama grand jury indicted Smith for burglary, rape, and sodomy. All the charges related to a single assault. Smith agreed to plead guilty to the burglary and rape charges in exchange for the State's agreement to dismiss the sodomy charge. The trial court granted the State's motion to dismiss the sodomy charge, accepted respondent's guilty plea, and sentenced him to concurrent terms of 30-years' imprisonment on each conviction. Later, respondent moved to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming that he had not entered it knowingly and voluntarily. The trial court denied this motion, but the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed, finding that respondent had not been properly informed of the penalties associated with the crimes to which he had pleaded guilty. 494 So.2d 182 (1986).

The case was reassigned to the same trial judge. The State moved to reinstate the charge of first-degree sodomy; the trial court granted that motion, and respondent went to trial on all three original charges. At trial, the victim testified that respondent had broken into her home in the middle of the night, clad only in his underwear and a ski mask and wielding a kitchen knife. Holding the knife to her chest, he had raped and sodomized her repeatedly and forced her to engage in oral sex with him. The attack, which lasted for more than an hour, occurred in the victim's own bedroom, just across the hall from the room in which her three young children lay sleeping. The State also offered respondent's postarrest statement, in which he admitted many of the details of the offenses. Respondent later took the stand and repudiated his postarrest statement, testifying instead that he had been in bed with his girl friend at the time the attack took place.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty on all three counts. This time, the trial judge imposed a term of life imprisonment for the burglary conviction, plus a concurrent term of life imprisonment on the sodomy conviction and a consecutive term of 150 years' imprisonment on the rape conviction. The trial court explained that it was imposing a harsher sen- tence than it had imposed following respondent's guilty plea because the evidence presented at trial, of which it had been unaware at the time it imposed sentence on the guilty plea, convinced it that the original sentence had been too lenient. See App. to Pet. for Cert. 28-30. As the court explained, at the time it imposed sentence on the guilty plea, it had heard only "[respondent's] side of the story"; whereas now, it "has had a trial and heard all of the evidence," including testimony that respondent had raped the victim at least five times, forced her to engage in oral sex with him, and threatened her life with a knife. Ibid. The court stated that this new information about the nature of respondent's crimes and their impact on the victim, together with its observations of his "mental outlook on [the offenses] and [his] position during the trial," convinced it that it was "proper to increase the sentence beyond that which was given to [him] on the plea bargain." Id., at 30.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed respondent's convictions, as well as the life sentences imposed for burglary and sodomy, but remanded the rape conviction for resentencing. The Supreme Court of Alabama then granted respondent's request for review of the burglary sentence, and reversed and remanded by a divided vote. Ex parte Smith, 557 So.2d 13 (1988). The majority held that under our decision in North Carolina v. Pearce, supra, there can be no increase in sentence "upon re onviction at [a] second trial after the first conviction has been overturned on appeal and remanded for a new trial," unless the increase is justified by " 'events subsequent to the first trial.' " 557 So.2d, at 15. Because the majority thought the trial court had increased respondent's sentence for the burglary conviction based on new information about events occurring prior to the imposition of the original sentence—e.g., new information about the nature of the crime and its effect on the victim—the majority held that Pearce required it to set aside that sentence.

The three dissenting justices argued that the Pearce presumption of vindictiveness did not apply where the original sentence is entered after a guilty plea. Id., at 16. In their view, a defendant "should not be allowed to receive sentence concessions in return for a guilty plea and then, after a successful attack on that plea, bind the State to its original sentencing bargain if he is later convicted after a trial." Id., at 17. Were it otherwise, they argued, a defendant "could go to trial and chance an acquittal knowing he could receive a sentence no harsher than he was originally given." Ibid. 1

Because of the conflicting results reached by the lower courts on the question whether the Pearce presumption of vindictiveness applies when a sentence imposed after trial is greater than that previously imposed after a guilty plea,2 we granted certiorari, 488 U.S. 1003, 109 S.Ct. 781, 102 L.Ed.2d 773 (1989), and now reverse.

While sentencing discretion permits consideration of a wide range of information relevant to the assessment of punishment, see Williams v. New York, 337 U.S. 241, 245-249, 69 S.Ct. 1079, 1082-1084, 93 L.Ed. 1337 (1949), we have recognized it must not be exercised with the purpose of punishing a successful appeal. Pearce, 395 U.S., at 723-725, 89 S.Ct., at 2079-2080. "Due process of law, then, requires that vindictiveness against a defendant for having successfully attacked his first conviction must play no part in the sentence he receives after a new trial." Id., at 725, 89 S.Ct., at 2080. "In order to assure the absence of such a motivation, we have concluded that whenever a judge imposes a more severe sentence upon a defendant after a new trial, the reasons...

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