Com. v. Smith

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtBefore NIX; FLAHERTY; LARSEN; McDERMOTT
Citation615 A.2d 321,532 Pa. 177
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee, v. Jay C. SMITH, Appellant.
Decision Date18 September 1992

Page 321

615 A.2d 321
532 Pa. 177
COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee,
Jay C. SMITH, Appellant.
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Argued May 6, 1992.
Decided Sept. 18, 1992.

[532 Pa. 178] William C. Costopoulos, Lemoyne, for appellant.

Robert A. Graci, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen. and Anthony Sarcione, Executive Deputy Atty. Gen., for appellee.



FLAHERTY, Justice.

In this infamous murder case, we are compelled to order the discharge of appellant Jay C. Smith. Despite our prior holding granting a retrial, Commonwealth v.

Page 322

Smith, 523 Pa. 577, 568 A.2d 600 (1989), we now hold that the prosecutorial misconduct during appellant's first trial was not only impermissible, but had constitutional implications under the double jeopardy clause which prohibit retrial.

At issue is whether the double jeopardy clause bars retrial following intentional prosecutorial misconduct designed to secure a conviction through the concealment of exculpatory evidence; previously, we have held that "double jeopardy will attach only to those mistrials which have been intentionally caused by prosecutorial misconduct." Commonwealth v. Simons, 514 Pa. 10, 16, 522 A.2d 537, 540 (1987), adopting the federal constitutional standard set forth in Oregon v. Kennedy, 456 U.S. 667, 102 S.Ct. 2083, 72 L.Ed.2d 416 (1982). The Superior Court recognized that our prior remand did not foreclose this question, and it considered the issue and the claim of double jeopardy to be outside the scope of the direct appeal. Commonwealth v. Smith, 404 Pa.Super. 553, 557, 591 A.2d 730, 732 (1991). Superior Court's view is supported by the fact that the after-discovered evidence of prosecutorial misconduct during appellant's trial was unknown to appellant during his direct appeal and was not presented to this court at that time. Both the trial court and the Superior Court, Commonwealth v. Smith, supra at 559, 591 A.2d at 733, in proceedings following remand, found that intentional prosecutorial misconduct had been proved by appellant but deferred the remedy, a question of first impression, to this court. We granted allocatur to consider this question.

Inasmuch as a more detailed description of the crimes charged against appellant is contained in our prior opinion, [532 Pa. 180] Smith, supra, 523 Pa. 577, 568 A.2d 600, we abridge our description of the case for purposes of this appeal. Schoolteacher Susan Reinert and her two young children were murdered in June, 1979. William Bradfield, who was her fiance and fellow schoolteacher, and appellant, who was the principal of their school, allegedly had conspired to murder Mrs. Reinert in order to recover the proceeds of insurance policies on her life which named her fiance as beneficiary. The Commonwealth presented physical evidence linking appellant to the murders as well as various other testimonial evidence which, together, this court regarded as sufficient to sustain appellant's conviction. Id. at 586, 568 A.2d at 605. Nevertheless, this court held that appellant was entitled to a new trial due to the admission of impermissible hearsay testimony by associates of alleged co-conspirator Bradfield. Id. at 588-96, 568 A.2d at 605-09.

Before appellant could be retried, he filed a motion to preclude a new trial based on double jeopardy because of after-discovered evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. He alleged that the Commonwealth withheld potentially exculpatory physical evidence during his first trial and that the Commonwealth knowingly denied the existence of the agreement which existed with its chief witness whereby the witness received favorable sentencing treatment in exchange for his testimony against appellant. These alleged Commonwealth tactics were clearly in violation of the rule of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963), and, if proved, would, at the very least, entitle appellant to a new trial pursuant to Brady. Under the holding of Commonwealth v. Simons, supra, however, appellant would not be entitled to discharge to avoid double jeopardy, for the violation was not based on a "claim that the prosecutor intended to provoke a mistrial." Id. 514 Pa. at 20, 522 A.2d at 542 (emphasis in original). Appellant presents the case hypothesized in Simons, "where the Commonwealth conceals its efforts to subvert the truth-determining process, ... [where there is] no intent to goad the defendant into moving for a mistrial. Quite the opposite, the intent would be that the [532 Pa. 181] defendant should never know how his wrongful conviction came about." Simons, supra at 23, 522 A.2d at 544 (Flaherty, J., concurring).

After appellant's direct appeal from his first trial, he acquired evidence that the Commonwealth had obtained his conviction by overreaching in two respects. Specifically, he learned that the prosecution's chief witness, Mr. Martray, who denied the

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existence of any bargain in exchange for his testimony against appellant, was in fact awaiting sentencing for unrelated crimes and did in fact receive favorable treatment by the Commonwealth at his sentencing. Appellant was thereby precluded from impeaching Mr. Martray's veracity by exposing his motivation to testify falsely against appellant in order to minimize his own punishment. Secondly, appellant learned that the Commonwealth knowingly withheld physical evidence by hiding the fact that grains of sand were discovered between the toes of the murder victim at her autopsy, failing to present this evidence at appellant's trial and failing to apprise appellant of the evidence...

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163 cases
  • Ex parte Mitchell
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • November 19, 1997 least five states have held their constitutions do bar retrial after reversal for prosecutorial misconduct. See, State v. Smith, 532 Pa. 177, 615 A.2d 321 (1992) (The double jeopardy clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution prohibits retrial not only when prosecutorial misconduct is inten......
  • Ex parte Davis
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    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • September 17, 1997
    ...the erroneous denial of a mistrial based upon prosecutorial misconduct. 2 II. Other Jurisdictions A. State In Pennsylvania v. Smith, 532 Pa. 177, 615 A.2d 321 (1992), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held under the Pennsylvania Constitution, prosecutorial misconduct directed at securing a con......
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    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Hawai'i
    • October 5, 1999 undertaken with the intention of denying the defendant an opportunity to win an acquittal"). For example, in Commonwealth v. Smith, 532 Pa. 177, 615 A.2d 321 (1992), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recognized that, although there may be no intent to provoke a mistrial, the misconduct of t......
  • Lambert v. Blackwell, CIV.A. 01-2511.
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    • November 21, 2001
    ...See also Commonwealth v. Martorano, 559 Pa. 533, 741 A.2d 1221, 1223 (1999), which confirmed the vitality of Commonwealth v. Smith, 532 Pa. 177, 615 A.2d 321 (1992), cited in the 1997 findings at 962 F.Supp. at 1552, n. 22. The Commonwealth contends that because our adjudicatory process was......
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    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Criminal Defense Tools and Techniques
    • March 30, 2017
    ...sanction, there are no published federal appellate opinions in which a court has imposed such a sanction); but see Commonwealth v. Smith , 532 Pa. 177, 615 A.2d 321 (1992) (imposing dismissal with prejudice where prosecutor deliberately concealed exculpatory evidence both during trial and f......
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    • May 1, 2002
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