Lockhart v. Nelson, No. 87-1277

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtREHNQUIST
Citation102 L.Ed.2d 265,488 U.S. 33,109 S.Ct. 285
PartiesA.L. LOCKHART, Director, Arkansas Department of Correction, Petitioner v. Johnny Lee NELSON
Docket NumberNo. 87-1277
Decision Date14 November 1988

488 U.S. 33
109 S.Ct. 285
102 L.Ed.2d 265
A.L. LOCKHART, Director, Arkansas Department of Correction, Petitioner

v.

Johnny Lee NELSON.

No. 87-1277.
Argued Oct. 3, 1988.
Decided Nov. 14, 1988.
Syllabus

Arkansas' habitual criminal statute provides that a defendant who is convicted of a class B felony may be sentenced to an enhanced term of imprisonment if the State proves beyond a reasonable doubt, at a separate sentencing hearing, that he has at least four prior felony convictions. At respondent's sentencing hearing following his guilty plea to a class B felony, the State introduced certified copies of four prior felony convictions, one of which, unbeknownst to the prosecutor, had been pardoned by the Governor. The case was submitted to the jury, which found that the State had met its burden of proving four prior felony convictions and imposed an enhanced sentence. Several years later, respondent sought a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court, contending that the enhanced sentence was invalid because one of the convictions used to support it had been pardoned. The District Court determined that the conviction in question had in fact been pardoned and set aside the enhanced sentence. The District Court then held, in reliance on Burks v. United States, 437 U.S. 1, 98 S.Ct. 2141, 57 L.Ed.2d 1 (1978), that the Double Jeopardy Clause prohibited the State from attempting to resentence respondent as a habitual offender on the basis of another prior conviction not offered or admitted at the initial sentencing hearing. The Court of Appeals affirmed, reasoning that the pardoned conviction was inadmissible under state law, and that the Double Jeopardy Clause forbade retrial because the remaining evidence adduced at trial was legally insufficient to sustain the jury's verdict of enhancement.

Held: When a reviewing court determines that a defendant's conviction must be set aside because certain evidence was erroneously admitted against him, and further finds that once that evidence is discounted, there is insufficient evidence to support the conviction, the Double Jeopardy Clause does not forbid his retrial so long as the sum of the evidence offered by the State and admitted by the trial court—whether erroneously or not—would have been sufficient to sustain a guilty verdict. The general rule is that the Double Jeopardy Clause does not preclude the retrial of a defendant who succeeds in getting his conviction set aside for such "trial errors" as the incorrect receipt or rejection of evidence. The Burks exception to that rule is based on the view that a reversal for

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evidentiary insufficiency is the functional equivalent of a trial court's granting a judgment of acquittal at the close of all the evidence. Because a trial court in passing on such a motion considers all of the evidence it has admitted, it must be this same quantum of evidence which is considered in deciding whether retrial is permissible under the Double Jeopardy Clause. Permitting retrial in this instance is not the sort of oppression at which the Double Jeopardy Clause is aimed, but simply affords the defendant an opportunity to obtain a fair adjudication of his guilt free from error. Pp. 38-42.

828 F.2d 446 (CA8 1987), reversed.

REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, STEVENS, O'CONNOR, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 38—42.

J. Steven Clark, Little Rock, Ark., for petitioner.

John Wesley Hall, Jr., Little Rock, Ark., for respondent.

Chief Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case a reviewing court set aside a defendant's conviction of enhanced sentence because certain evidence was erroneously admitted against him, and further held that the Double Jeopardy Clause forbade the State to retry him as a habitual offender because the remaining evidence adduced at trial was legally insufficient to support a conviction. Nothing in the record suggests any misconduct in the prosecutor's submission of the evidence. We conclude that in cases such as this, where the evidence offered by the State and admitted by the trial court whether erroneously or not—would have been sufficient to sustain a guilty verdict, the Double Jeopardy Clause does not preclude retrial.

Respondent Johnny Lee Nelson pleaded guilty in Arkansas state court to burglary, a class B felony, and misdemeanor theft. He was sentenced under the State's habitual criminal

Page 35

statute, which provides that a defendant who is convicted of a class B felony and "who has previously been convicted of . . . [or] found guilty of four [4] or more felonies," may be sentenced to an enhanced term of imprisonment of between 20 and 40 years. Ark.Stat.Ann. § 41-1001(2)(b) (1977) (current version at Ark. Code Ann. § 5-4-501 (1987)). To have a convicted defendant's sentence enhanced under the statute, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, at a separate sentencing hearing, that the defendant has the requisite number of prior felony convictions. § 41-1005 (current version at Ark. Code Ann. § 5-4-502 (1987)); § 41-1003 (current version at Ark. Code Ann. § 5-4-504 (1987)). Section 41-1003 of the statute sets out the means by which the prosecution may prove the prior felony convictions, providing that "[a] previous conviction or finding of guilt of a felony may be proved by any evidence that satisfies the trier of fact beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was convicted or found guilty," and that three types of documents, including "a duly certified copy of the record of a previous conviction or finding of guilt by a court of record," are "sufficient to support a finding of a prior conviction or finding of guilt." § 41-1003 (current version at Ark. Code Ann. § 5-4-504 (1987)).1 The defendant is entitled to challenge the State's evidence of his prior convictions and to rebut it with evidence

Page 36

of his own. § 41-1005(2) (current version at Ark. Code Ann. § 5-4-502(2) (1987)).

At respondent's sentencing hearing, the State introduced, without objection from the defense, certified copies of four prior felony convictions. Unbeknownst to the prosecutor, one of those convictions had been pardoned by the Governor several years after its entry. Defense counsel made no objection to the admission of the pardoned conviction, because he too was unaware of the Governor's action. On cross-examination, respondent indicated his belief that the conviction in question had been pardoned. The prosecutor suggested that respondent was confusing a pardon with a commutation to time served. Under questioning from the court, respondent agreed that the conviction had been commuted rather than pardoned, and the matter was not pursued any further.2 The case was submitted to the jury,3 which found that the State had met its burden of proving four prior convictions and imposed an enhanced sentence. The State courts upheld the enhanced sentence on both direct and collateral review, despite respondent's protestations that one of the convictions relied upon by the State had been pardoned.4

Page 37

Several years later, respondent sought a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court, contending once again that the enhanced sentence was invalid because one of the prior convictions used to support it had been pardoned. When an investigation undertaken by the State at the District Court's request revealed that the conviction in question had in fact been pardoned, the District Court declared the enhanced sentence to be invalid. The State announced its intention to resentence respondent as a habitual offender, using another prior conviction not offered or admitted at the initial sentencing hearing, and respondent interposed a claim of double jeopardy. After hearing arguments from counsel, the District Court decided that the Double Jeopardy Clause prevented the State from attempting to resentence respondent as a habitual offender on the burglary charge. 641 F.Supp. 174 (ED Ark.1986).5 The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed. 828 F.2d 446 (1987). The Court of Appeals reasoned that the pardoned conviction was not admissible under state law, and that "[w]ithout [it], the state has failed to provide sufficient evidence" to sustain the enhanced sentence. Id., at 449-450. We granted certiorari to review this interpretation of the Double Jeopardy Clause. 485 U.S. 904, 108 S.Ct. 1073, 99 L.Ed.2d 233 (1988).6

Page 38

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, made applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment, see 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." It has long been settled, however, that the Double Jeopardy Clause's general prohibition against successive prosecutions does not prevent the government from retrying a defendant who succeeds in getting his first conviction set aside, through direct appeal or collateral attack, because of some error in the proceedings leading to conviction. United States v. Ball, 163 U.S. 662, 16 S.Ct. 1192, 41 L.Ed. 300 (1896) (retrial permissible following reversal of conviction on direct appeal); United States v. Tateo, 377 U.S. 463, 84 S.Ct. 1587, 12 L.Ed.2d 448 (1964) (retrial permissible when conviction declared invalid on collateral attack). This rule, which is a "well-established part of our constitutional jurisprudence," id., at 465, 84 S.Ct., at 1588, is necessary in order to ensure the "sound administration of justice":

"Corresponding to the right of an accused to be given a fair trial is the societal interest in punishing one whose guilt is clear after he has obtained such a trial. It would be a high price indeed for society to pay were every accused granted immunity from punishment because of any defect sufficient to...

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1091 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Pimienta-Redondo, PIMIENTA-REDOND
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • January 10, 1989
    ...appeal, id. at 137, 101 S.Ct. at 437, will ordinarily implicate double jeopardy considerations. Cf. Lockhart v. Nelson, --- U.S. ----, 109 S.Ct. 285, 291, 102 L.Ed.2d 265 (1988) (double jeopardy clause did not bar retrial of sentence enhancement proceeding after evidence was erroneously adm......
  • Ware v. Harry, Case No. 06-CV-10553-DT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • April 21, 2008
    ...Carneglia, 47 Fed.Appx. 27, 34-35 (2d Cir.2002); United States v. Castaneda, 16 F.3d 1504, 1510 (9th Cir. 1994); cf. Lockhart v. Nelson, 488 U.S. 33, 38-39, 109 S.Ct. 285, 102 L.Ed.2d 265 (1988) (in assessing whether the evidence was sufficient for purposes of determining whether retrial is......
  • Evans v. Thompson, No. 07-1014.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • February 8, 2008
    ...1 (1978) (double jeopardy attaches when conviction overturned on direct review due to insufficient evidence). But see Lockhart v. Nelson, 488 U.S. 33, 39-42, 109 S.Ct. 285, 102 L.Ed.2d 265 (1988) (recognizing that Burks is a narrow exception to the general rule that the government can retry......
  • Delap v. Dugger, Nos. 88-3393
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • November 20, 1989
    ...from reprosecuting a defendant who succeeds in getting his or her conviction reversed on appeal. Lockhart v. Nelson, --- U.S. ----, ----, 109 S.Ct. 285, 289, 102 L.Ed.2d 265 (1988). However, a judgment of acquittal, whether based on a jury verdict of not guilty or on a ruling by the court t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1091 cases
  • U.S. v. Pimienta-Redondo, PIMIENTA-REDOND
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • January 10, 1989
    ...appeal, id. at 137, 101 S.Ct. at 437, will ordinarily implicate double jeopardy considerations. Cf. Lockhart v. Nelson, --- U.S. ----, 109 S.Ct. 285, 291, 102 L.Ed.2d 265 (1988) (double jeopardy clause did not bar retrial of sentence enhancement proceeding after evidence was erroneously adm......
  • Ware v. Harry, Case No. 06-CV-10553-DT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • April 21, 2008
    ...Carneglia, 47 Fed.Appx. 27, 34-35 (2d Cir.2002); United States v. Castaneda, 16 F.3d 1504, 1510 (9th Cir. 1994); cf. Lockhart v. Nelson, 488 U.S. 33, 38-39, 109 S.Ct. 285, 102 L.Ed.2d 265 (1988) (in assessing whether the evidence was sufficient for purposes of determining whether retrial is......
  • Evans v. Thompson, No. 07-1014.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • February 8, 2008
    ...1 (1978) (double jeopardy attaches when conviction overturned on direct review due to insufficient evidence). But see Lockhart v. Nelson, 488 U.S. 33, 39-42, 109 S.Ct. 285, 102 L.Ed.2d 265 (1988) (recognizing that Burks is a narrow exception to the general rule that the government can retry......
  • Delap v. Dugger, Nos. 88-3393
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • November 20, 1989
    ...from reprosecuting a defendant who succeeds in getting his or her conviction reversed on appeal. Lockhart v. Nelson, --- U.S. ----, ----, 109 S.Ct. 285, 289, 102 L.Ed.2d 265 (1988). However, a judgment of acquittal, whether based on a jury verdict of not guilty or on a ruling by the court t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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