Thigpen v. Roberts, No. 82-1330

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWHITE
Citation104 S.Ct. 2916,82 L.Ed.2d 23,468 U.S. 27
PartiesMorris THIGPEN, Commissioner, Mississippi Department of Corrections, et al., Petitioner v. Barry Joe ROBERTS
Decision Date27 June 1984
Docket NumberNo. 82-1330

468 U.S. 27
104 S.Ct. 2916
82 L.Ed.2d 23
Morris THIGPEN, Commissioner, Mississippi Department of Corrections, et al., Petitioner

v.

Barry Joe ROBERTS.

No. 82-1330.

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued April 23, 1984.
Decided June 27, 1984.
Syllabus

Following an accident in which he lost control of his car and collided with a pickup truck, killing a passenger in the truck, respondent was charged with four misdemeanors—reckless driving, driving while his license was revoked, driving on the wrong side of the road, and driving while intoxicated. Upon being convicted of these charges in a Mississippi Justice of the Peace Court, he appealed, and the case was transferred to the Circuit Court for a trial de novo. While the appeal was pending, he was indicted for manslaughter based on the same accident, and was convicted. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed, refusing respondent leave to pursue state postconviction remedies. Respondent then brought a habeas corpus action in Federal District Court, which adopted a Magistrate's report holding that the manslaughter prosecution violated the Double Jeopardy Clause and that substitution of a felony charge covering the conduct for which respondent had been convicted of the misdemeanors violated the Due Process Clause. The Court of Appeals affirmed, relying solely on the double jeopardy ground.

Held:

1. The prosecution of respondent for manslaughter, following his invocation of his statutory right to appeal his misdemeanor convictions, was unconstitutional as a violation of due process. Blackledge v. Perry, 417 U.S. 21, 94 S.Ct. 2098, 40 L.Ed.2d 628. The fact that the proceedings before the Justice of the Peace were the county prosecutor's responsibility, whereas the felony indictment was obtained by the District Attorney, who was then involved in the manslaughter trial, may not make inappropriate the presumption of unconstitutional vindictiveness arising from obtaining that indictment. That presumption does not hinge on the continued involvement of a particular individual. In any event, here the county prosecutor was the State's sole representative at the arraignment on the felony indictment and, as required by statute, assisted at the manslaughter trial. Pp. 30-32.

2. Although the Court of Appeals and the petition for certiorari addressed only the double jeopardy issue, this Court, without deciding that issue, will decide the due process issue and not remand it to the Court of Appeals, where it was argued in both courts below, the State's opposi-

Page 28

tion to the Magistrate's report and its brief to the Court of Appeals are before this Court, and the factual record is adequate. Pp. 32-33.

693 F.2d 132 (5th Cir.1982), affirmed.

William S. Boyd, III, Brandon, Miss., for petitioners.

Rhesa H. Barksdale, Jackson, Miss., as amicus curiae in support of the judgment below by special order of the Court.

Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

On August 6, 1977, respondent Barry Joe Roberts lost control of his car and collided with a pickup truck, killing a passenger in the truck. Shortly after the accident, Roberts received citations for reckless driving, driving while his license was revoked, driving on the wrong side of the road, and driving while intoxicated. He was convicted of these four misdemeanors in a Justice of the Peace Court in Tallahatchie County, Miss.1 Roberts gave notice of appeal and the case was transferred to the Circuit Court for trial de novo.2

Page 29

While the appeal was pending, in December 1977, a grand jury indicted Roberts for manslaughter based on the August 6 accident. App. 90-91. Roberts was arraigned on the appeal and the felony indictment simultaneously, and the five charges were set for trial together. Id., at 92-93. During the trial, the State elected not to press the misdemeanor charges and remanded them to the file.3 The jury convicted Roberts of manslaughter, and the judge sentenced him to 20 years in prison. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. Roberts v. State, 379 So.2d 514 (1979). It also refused Roberts leave to pursue state post-conviction remedies.

Roberts then brought the present habeas corpus action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi. The petition was referred to a Magistrate, who recommended that the writ issue for two reasons. First, the manslaughter prosecution violated the Double Jeopardy Clause because proof of manslaughter required proof of all the elements of reckless driving, of which Roberts had already been convicted. See Illinois v. Vitale, 447 U.S. 410, 100 S.Ct. 2260, 65 L.Ed.2d 228 (1980). Second, substitution of a felony charge covering the conduct for which Roberts had already been convicted of four misdemeanors violated the Due Process Clause. See Blackledge v. Perry, 417 U.S. 21, 94 S.Ct. 2098, 40 L.Ed.2d 628 (1974). The District Court adopted the Magistrate's report. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed, relying solely on the double jeopardy argument, judgment order reported at 693 F.2d 132 (1982).

We granted certiorari, 461 U.S. 956, 103 S.Ct. 2427, 77 L.Ed.2d 1315 (1983), and we now affirm. Although the court below and the petition for certio-

Page 30

rari addressed only the double jeopardy issue, we may affirm on any ground that the law and the record permit and that will not expand the relief granted below. United States v. New York Telephone Co., 434 U.S. 159, 166, n. 8, 98 S.Ct. 364, 369 n. 8, 54 L.Ed.2d 376 (1977). Because this case is plainly controlled by Blackledge v. Perry, supra, we affirm on the basis of that decision without reaching the double jeopardy issue.

Perry was convicted of assault in a court of limited jurisdiction under a scheme essentially identical to Mississippi's. He exercised his statutory right to a trial de novo, and the prosecutor then obtained a felony indictment charging him with assault with a deadly weapon. We concluded that this sequence of events suggested "a realistic likelihood of 'vindictiveness.' " 417 U.S., at 27, 94 S.Ct., at 2102. Fearing that the prosecutor, who "has a considerable stake in discouraging convicted misdemeanants from appealing and thus obtaining a trial de novo," would make retaliatory use of his power to "up to ante," we considered the situation analogous to the imposition of a stiffer sentence after reversal and reconviction. See North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711, 89 S.Ct. 2072, 23 L.Ed.2d 656 (1969). We therefore established a presumption of unconstitutional vindictiveness in these circumstances. Blackledge, supra, 417 U.S., at 27-28, 94 S.Ct., at 2102-2103.

Blackledge clearly controls this case.4 The relevant facts are identical. Like Perry, Roberts was convicted of a misdemeanor or and exercised his right to a trial de novo, only to be confronted with a felony charge. That charge covered

Page 31

the same conduct as the misdemeanors he sought to appeal. As the Magistrate concluded, "[t]he facts of this case fall squarely within Blackledge." App. to Pet. for Cert. A4.

The only possible distinction between the two cases is that in Blackledge the same attorney was apparently responsible for the entire prosecution. Here the proceedings before the Justice of the Peace were the responsibility of the county prosecutor, whereas the felony indictment was obtained by the District Attorney, who was then involved in the manslaughter trial. It might be argued that if two different prosecutors are involved, a presumption of vindictiveness, which arises in part from assumptions about the individual's personal stake in the proceedings, is inappropriate. Cf. Colten v. Kentucky, 407 U.S. 104, 92 S.Ct. 1953, 32 L.Ed.2d 584 (1972) (refusing to apply prophylactic rule of Pearce where enhanced sentence is imposed by a different court after trial de novo). On the other hand, to the extent the presumption reflects "institutional pressure that . . . might . . . subconsciously motivate a vindictive prosecutorial . . . response to a defendant's exercise of his right to obtain a retrial of a decided question," United States v. Goodwin, 457 U.S. 368, 377, 102 S.Ct. 2485, 2491, 73 L.Ed.2d 74 (1982), it does not hinge on the continued involvement of a particular individual. A district attorney burdened with the retrial of an already-convicted defendant might be no less vindictive because he did not bring the initial prosecution. Indeed, Blackledge referred frequently to actions by "the State," rather than "the prosecutor." E.g., 417 U.S., at 28-29, 94 S.Ct., at 2102-2103.

We need not determine the correct rule when two independent prosecutors are involved, however. Here the county prosecutor participated fully after the conclusion of proceedings in the Justice of the Peace Court. He was the State's sole representative at the arraignment in Circuit Court, App. 92, assisted at the trial, id., at 94; Tr. of Oral Arg. 9, and presented the initial closing argument to the jury, App. 96. In fact, such participation was a statutory duty. Under the state law then in effect, the county pros-

Page 32

ecutor was to "assist the district attorney in all criminal cases in the circuit court" in which his county had an interest and "to represent the state in all matters coming before the grand jury of his county." Miss.Code Ann. § 19-23-11 (1972). In these circumstances, the addition of the District Attorney to the prosecutorial team changes little.5

Petitioners suggest that we should remand the Blackledge issue to the Court of Appeals rather than reach it ourselves. Tr. of Oral Arg. 24. It is true that "[w]hen attention has been focused on other issues, or when the court from which a case comes has expressed no views on a controlling question, it may be appropriate to remand the case rather than deal with the merits of that question in this Court." Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471, 476, n. 6, 90 S.Ct. 1153, 1157, n. 6, 25 L.Ed.2d 491 (1970)....

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  • Grady v. Corbin, No. 89-474
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 29, 1990
    ...See Fugate v. New Mexico, 470 U.S. 904, 105 S.Ct. 1858, 84 L.Ed.2d 777 (1985) (affirming by an equally divided Court); Thigpen v. Roberts, 468 U.S. 27, 104 S.Ct. 2916, 82 L.Ed.2d 23 (1984) (deciding on alternative grounds). 3. The record does not indicate why the return dates for the traffi......
  • Murr v. Wisconsin, No. 15–214.
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 23, 2017
    ...were undeveloped). The judgment below, furthermore, may be affirmed on any ground permitted by the law and record. See Thigpen v. Roberts, 468 U.S. 27, 30, 104 S.Ct. 2916, 82 L.Ed.2d 23 (1984). To the extent the state court treated the two lots as one parcel based on a bright-line rule, not......
  • People v. Pollard, No. D011616
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 25, 1991
    ...U.S. 21, 94 S.Ct. 2098, 40 L.Ed.2d 628; U.S. v. Goodwin (1982) 457 U.S. 368, 102 S.Ct. 2485, 73 L.Ed.2d 74; and Thigpen v. Roberts (1984) 468 U.S. 27, 104 S.Ct. 2916, 82 L.Ed.2d 23, the court frames the issue in this way: "Is any subsequent plea offer to Turner, higher than that extend......
  • A.H. Robins Co., Inc., In re, Nos. 88-1755
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • June 16, 1989
    ...or by the parties in the proceedings before us, if one concluded that this action could not be certified under (b)(1). Thigpen v. Roberts, 468 U.S. 27, 29-30, 104 S.Ct. 2916, 2918, 82 L.Ed.2d 23 (1984); Schweiker v. Hogan, 457 U.S. 569, 585, 102 S.Ct. 2597, 2607, 73 L.Ed.2d 227 (1982); Ster......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
136 cases
  • Grady v. Corbin, No. 89-474
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 29, 1990
    ...See Fugate v. New Mexico, 470 U.S. 904, 105 S.Ct. 1858, 84 L.Ed.2d 777 (1985) (affirming by an equally divided Court); Thigpen v. Roberts, 468 U.S. 27, 104 S.Ct. 2916, 82 L.Ed.2d 23 (1984) (deciding on alternative grounds). 3. The record does not indicate why the return dates for the traffi......
  • Murr v. Wisconsin, No. 15–214.
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 23, 2017
    ...were undeveloped). The judgment below, furthermore, may be affirmed on any ground permitted by the law and record. See Thigpen v. Roberts, 468 U.S. 27, 30, 104 S.Ct. 2916, 82 L.Ed.2d 23 (1984). To the extent the state court treated the two lots as one parcel based on a bright-line rule, not......
  • People v. Pollard, No. D011616
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 25, 1991
    ...U.S. 21, 94 S.Ct. 2098, 40 L.Ed.2d 628; U.S. v. Goodwin (1982) 457 U.S. 368, 102 S.Ct. 2485, 73 L.Ed.2d 74; and Thigpen v. Roberts (1984) 468 U.S. 27, 104 S.Ct. 2916, 82 L.Ed.2d 23, the court frames the issue in this way: "Is any subsequent plea offer to Turner, higher than that extend......
  • A.H. Robins Co., Inc., In re, Nos. 88-1755
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • June 16, 1989
    ...or by the parties in the proceedings before us, if one concluded that this action could not be certified under (b)(1). Thigpen v. Roberts, 468 U.S. 27, 29-30, 104 S.Ct. 2916, 2918, 82 L.Ed.2d 23 (1984); Schweiker v. Hogan, 457 U.S. 569, 585, 102 S.Ct. 2597, 2607, 73 L.Ed.2d 227 (1982); Ster......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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