U.S. v. Lee, 75-1836

Decision Date21 July 1976
Docket NumberNo. 75-1836,75-1836
Citation539 F.2d 612
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Phillip Jerome LEE, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit

Prof. Conrad Kellenberg, and Maureen S. Power (Third Year Law Student Presenting Oral Argument by Leave of Court), Notre Dame, Ind., for defendant-appellant.

John R. Wilks, U.S. Atty., Frank J. Gray, Asst. U.S. Atty., Fort Wayne, Ind., for plaintiff-appellee.

Before SWYGERT and BAUER, Circuit Judges, and HOFFMAN, Senior District Judge. 1


The question presented on this appeal is whether the double jeopardy clause of the Constitution is violated when a person is put to trial twice, the first time on a faulty charge.

The evidence at both trials was identical. Chales Bilskie, a blind person, operated a newspaper and candy concession in the main lobby of the Fort Wayne, Indiana, Post Office. On December 21, 1973 Bilskie had placed his two wallets containing money in the amount of $66.00 on the counter behind his stand. A postal security officer, Vance Travis, was in the lobby during the day and saw two people talking to Bilskie. One of these was later identified as defendant-appellant Phillip Jerome Lee. Officer Travis saw Lee go behind the counter and after noticing that Lee had Bilskie's wallets in his hand, shouted, "Stop." Lee attempted to escape, but was apprehended by Travis.

The defendant was charged by an information with violating 18 U.S.C. § 13 2 and I.C. 35-17-5-3, Burns Ind.Stat. § 3030 (1971), 3 (theft while on property under the jurisdiction of the federal government). At his trial, but before any evidence was introduced, the defendant moved that the information be dismissed because it did not include the allegation that the offense was "knowingly" committed. The trial judge took the motion under advisement and proceeded to hear the evidence. At the conclusion of the trial the objection to the faulty information was sustained and the case was dismissed.

The defendant was thereafter indicted for the same offense with the correction that the theft knowingly occurred. After a bench trial, the defendant was found guilty and given a prison sentence.

The sole issue on appeal is whether a retrial of the defendant for the same offense pursuant to a corrected indictment violated his right against double jeopardy.

Recently, in Serfass v. United States, 420 U.S. 377, 388, 95 S.Ct. 1055, 1062, 43 L.Ed.2d 265 (1975), the Supreme Court discussed at what point in a criminal proceeding the double jeopardy clause becomes applicable:

As an aid to the decision of cases in which the prohibition of the Double Jeopardy Clause has been invoked, the courts have found it useful to define a point in criminal proceedings at which the constitutional purposes and policies are implicated by resort to the concept of "attachment of jeopardy." In the case of a jury trial, jeopardy attaches when a jury is empaneled and sworn. In a nonjury trial, jeopardy attaches when the court begins to hear evidence. The Court has consistently adhered to the view that jeopardy does not attach, and the constitutional prohibition can have no application, until a defendant is "put to trial before the trier of the facts, whether the trier be a jury or a judge." (Citations omitted.)

The question, however, of when double jeopardy attaches should not be determined mechanically, as the Court pointed out in Illinois v. Somerville, 410 U.S. 458, 93 S.Ct. 1066, 35 L.Ed.2d 425 (1973). Rather the question must turn on the particular facts presented by each case. For example, in Somerville, the defendant had been indicted for the crime of theft. The case was called for trial and a jury was impaneled and sworn, but before any evidence had been presented the prosecuting attorney brought to the trial court's attention the fact that the indictment was fatally defective. Because the defect was "jurisdictional" under the prevailing state law and could not be waived, the trial judge granted the state's motion for a mistrial. The defendant was reindicted (under proper allegations) for the same offense and a jury returned a verdict of guilty. The Supreme Court held that the double jeopardy clause did not bar the defendant's retrial.

In United States v. Velazquez, 490 F.2d 29 (2d Cir. 1973), the trial judge dismissed an...

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4 cases
  • Sumpter v. DeGroote
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • April 1, 1977
    ...apply the Ball rule following reversals prompted by defective indictments or other procedural errors of law. E. g., United States v. Lee, 539 F.2d 612, 614 (7th Cir.1976). In such cases, the societal price of immunizing a defendant whose guilt has already been sufficiently established by th......
  • State v. Lynch
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court — Appellate Division
    • January 3, 1978
    ...trial, was convicted. His claim that the second trial was barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause was rejected by the Seventh Circuit, 539 F.2d 612 (1976), and again by the Supreme Court in Lee v. United States, supra. The court identified the critical inquiry as being "whether the order conte......
  • Lee v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 13, 1977
    ...request a continuance or otherwise stress the importance to petitioner of not being placed in jeopardy on a defective charge. Pp. 33-34. 539 F.2d 612, Joseph P. Bauer, Notre Dame, Ind., for the petitioner. Andrew L. Frey, Washington, D. C., for the respondent. Mr. Justice POWELL delivered t......
  • Zucker v. Maxicare Health Plans Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • January 26, 1994
    ... ... Counsel for the plaintiff class claimed in a letter to us that the California court's decision resolved our jurisdictional concerns. However, the Judgment ... ...

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