United States v. Goodwin, No. 80-2195

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSTEVENS
PartiesUNITED STATES, Petitioner v. Learley Reed GOODWIN
Docket NumberNo. 80-2195
Decision Date18 June 1982

457 U.S. 368
102 S.Ct. 2485
73 L.Ed.2d 74
UNITED STATES, Petitioner

v.

Learley Reed GOODWIN.

No. 80-2195.
Argued April 21, 1982.
Decided June 18, 1982.
Syllabus

After initially expressing an interest in plea bargaining on misdemeanor charges, respondent decided not to plead guilty and requested a trial by jury. While the misdemeanor charges were still pending, he was indicted and convicted in Federal District Court on a felony charge arising out of the same incident as the misdemeanor charges. Respondent moved to set aside the verdict on the ground of prosecutorial vindictiveness, contending that the felony indictment gave rise to an impermissible appearance of retaliation. The District Court denied the motion. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that, although the prosecutor did not act with actual vindictiveness in seeking a felony indictment, the Due Process Clause prohibits the Government from bringing more serious charges against the defendant after he has invoked his right to a jury trial, unless the prosecutor comes forward with objective evidence that the increased charges could not have been brought before the defendant exercised his right. Believing that the circumstances surrounding the felony indictment gave rise to a genuine risk of retaliation, the court adopted a legal presumption of prosecutorial vindictiveness.

Held : A presumption of prosecutorial vindictiveness was not warranted in this case, and absent such a presumption no due process violation was established. Pp. 372-384.

(a) In cases in which action detrimental to a defendant has been taken after the exercise of a legal right, the presumption of an improper vindictive motive has been applied only where a reasonable likelihood of vindictiveness existed. North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711, 89 S.Ct. 2072, 23 L.Ed.2d 656; Blackledge v. Perry, 417 U.S. 21, 94 S.Ct. 2098, 40 L.Ed.2d 628. Cf. Bordenkircher v. Hayes, 434 U.S. 357, 98 S.Ct. 663, 54 L.Ed.2d 604. Pp. 372-380.

(b) A change in the prosecutor's charging decision made after an initial trial is completed is much more likely to be improperly motivated than is a pretrial decision. It is unrealistic to assume that a prosecutor's probable response to such pretrial motions as to be tried by a jury is to seek to penalize and to deter. Here, the timing of the prosecutor's action suggests that a presumption of vindictiveness was not warranted. A prosecutor should remain free before trial to exercise his discretion to determine the extent of the societal interest in the prosecution. The ini-

Page 369

tial charges filed by a prosecutor may not reflect the extent to which an individual is legitimately subject to prosecution. Bordenkircher, supra. Pp. 380-382.

(c) The nature of the right asserted by respondent confirms that a presumption of vindictiveness was not warranted in this case. The mere fact that a defendant refuses to plead guilty and forces the government to prove its case is insufficient to warrant a presumption that subsequent changes in the charging decision are unwarranted. Bordenkircher, supra. Pp. 382-383.

(d) The fact that respondent, as opposed to having a bench trial, requested a jury trial does not compel a special presumption of prosecutorial vindictiveness whenever additional charges are thereafter brought. While there may have been an opportunity for vindictiveness here, a mere opportunity for vindictiveness is insufficient to justify the imposition of a prophylactic rule. The possibility that a prosecutor would respond to a defendant's pretrial demand for a jury trial by bringing charges not in the public interest that could be explained only as a penalty imposed on the defendant is sounlikely that a presumption of vindictiveness is certainly not warranted. Pp.383-384

4th Cir., 637 F.2d 250, reversed and remanded.

Andrew L. Frey, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Paul W. Spence, Baltimore, Md., for respondent.

Justice STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case involves presumptions. The question presented is whether a presumption that has been used to evaluate a judicial or prosecutorial response to a criminal defendant's exercise of a right to be retried after he has been convicted

Page 370

should also be applied to evaluate a prosecutor's pretrial response to a defendant's demand for a jury trial.

After the respondent requested a trial by jury on pending misdemeanor charges, he was indicted and convicted on a felony charge. Believing that the sequence of events gave rise to an impermissible appearance of prosecutorial retaliation against the defendant's exercise of his right to be tried by jury, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the felony conviction. 637 F.2d 250. Because this case presents an important question concerning the scope of our holdings in North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711, 89 S.Ct. 2072, 23 L.Ed.2d 656, and Blackledge v. Perry, 417 U.S. 21, 94 S.Ct. 2098, 40 L.Ed.2d 628, we granted the Government's petition for certiorari. 454 U.S. 1079, 102 S.Ct. 632, 70 L.Ed.2d 613.

I

Respondent Goodwin was stopped for speeding by a United States Park Policeman on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Goodwin emerged from his car to talk to the policeman. After a brief discussion, the officer noticed a clear plastic bag underneath the armrest next to the driver's seat of Goodwin's car. The officer asked Goodwin to return to his car and to raise the armrest. Respondent did so, but as he raised the armrest he placed the car into gear and accelerated rapidly. The car struck the officer, knocking him first onto the back of the car and then onto the highway. The policeman returned to his car, but Goodwin eluded him in a high-speed chase.

The following day, the officer filed a complaint in the District Court charging respondent with several misdemeanor and petty offenses, including assault. Goodwin was arrested and arraigned before a United States Magistrate. The Magistrate set a date for trial, but respondent fled the jurisdiction. Three years later Goodwin was found in custody in Virginia and was returned to Maryland.

Upon his return, respondent's case was assigned to an attorney from the Department of Justice, who was detailed

Page 371

temporarily to try petty crime and misdemeanor cases before the Magistrate. The attorney did not have authority to try felony cases or to seek indictments from the grand jury. Respondent initiated plea negotiations with the prosecutor, but later advised the Government that he did not wish to plead guilty and desired a trial by jury in the District Court.1

The case was transferred to the District Court and responsibility for the prosecution was assumed by an Assistant United States Attorney. Approximately six weeks later, after reviewing the case and discussing it with several parties, the prosecutor obtained a four-count indictment charging respondent with one felony count of forcibly assaulting a federal officer and three related counts arising from the same incident.2 A jury convicted respondent on the felony count and on one misdemeanor count.

Respondent moved to set aside the verdict on the ground of prosecutorial vindictiveness, contending that the indictment on the felony charge gave rise to an impermissible appearance of retaliation. The District Court denied the motion, finding that "the prosecutor in this case has adequately dispelled any appearance of retaliatory intent." 3

Page 372

Although the Court of Appeals readily concluded that "the prosecutor did not act with actual vindictiveness in seeking a felony indictment," 637 F.2d, at 252, it nevertheless reversed. Relying on our decisions in North Carolina v. Pearce, supra, and Blackledge v. Perry, supra, the court held that the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits the Government from bringing more serious charges against a defendant after he has invoked his right to a jury trial, unless the prosecutor comes forward with objective evidence to show that the increased charges could not have been brought before the defendant exercised his rights. Because the court believed that the circumstances surrounding the felony indictment gave rise to a genuine risk of retaliation, it adopted a legal presumption designed to spare courts the "unseemly task" of probing the actual motives of the prosecutor. 637 F.2d, at 255.

II

To punish a person because he has done what the law plainly allows him to do is a due process violation "of the most basic sort." Bordenkircher v. Hayes, 434 U.S. 357, 363, 98 S.Ct. 663, 668, 54 L.Ed.2d 604. In a series of cases beginning with North Carolina v. Pearce and culminating in Bordenkircher v. Hayes, the Court has recognized this basic—and itself uncontroversial principle. For while an individual certainly may be penalized for violating the law, he just as certainly may not be punished for exercising a protected statutory or constitutional right.4

The imposition of punishment is the very purpose of virtually all criminal proceedings. The presence of a punitive

Page 373

motivation, therefore, does not provide an adequate basis for distinguishing governmental action that is fully justified as a legitimate response to perceived criminal conduct from governmental action that is an impermissible response to noncriminal, protected activity. Motives are complex and difficult to prove. As a result, in certain cases in which action detrimental to the defendant has been taken after the exercise of a legal right, the Court has found it necessary to "presume" an improper vindictive motive. Given the severity of such a presumption, however—which may operate in the absence of any proof of an improper motive and thus may block a legitimate response to criminal conduct—the Court has done so only in cases in which a reasonable likelihood of vindictiveness exists.

In North Carolina v. Pearce, the Court held that neither the Double Jeopardy Clause...

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1634 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
    ...envisioned in Pearce arises "only in cases in which a reasonable likelihood of vindictiveness Page 13 exists." United States v. Goodwin, 457 U.S. 368, 373, 102 S.Ct. 2485, 2488, 73 L.Ed.2d 74 (1982). Once this presumption blossoms, the prosecution must proffer evidence to overcome it; elsew......
  • U.S. v. Krezdorn, No. 81-1404
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • December 23, 1982
    ...because he has done what the law allows him to do is a due process violation 'of the most basic sort.' " U.S. v. Goodwin, --- U.S. ----, 102 S.Ct. 2485, 2488, 73 L.Ed.2d 74 (1982), quoting Bordenkircher v. Page 1225 Hayes, 434 U.S. 357, 363, 98 S.Ct. 663, 667, 54 L.Ed.2d 604 (1978). Thus, w......
  • United States v. Johnson, No. CR 01–3046–MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • March 5, 2013
    ...was intended to punish him or her for the exercise of a legal right.” Id. (citing [United States v.] Goodwin, 457 U.S. [368,] 384 n. 19, 102 S.Ct. 2485[, 73 L.Ed.2d 74 (1982) ] ). “Second, a defendant may in certain circumstances rely on a presumption of vindictiveness.” Id.Graham, 323 F.3d......
  • U.S. v. Sarracino, No. 01-2308.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 19, 2003
    ...to fall four-square within Bordenkircher v. Hayes, 434 U.S. 357, 98 S.Ct. 663, 54 L.Ed.2d 604 (1978); see also United States v. Goodwin, 457 U.S. 368, 102 S.Ct. 2485, 73 L.Ed.2d 74 (1982)." I R. (Doc. 134). Not only is a presumption of vindictiveness inapplicable to the "give-and-take" of p......
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1628 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
    ...envisioned in Pearce arises "only in cases in which a reasonable likelihood of vindictiveness Page 13 exists." United States v. Goodwin, 457 U.S. 368, 373, 102 S.Ct. 2485, 2488, 73 L.Ed.2d 74 (1982). Once this presumption blossoms, the prosecution must proffer evidence to overcome it; elsew......
  • U.S. v. Krezdorn, No. 81-1404
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • December 23, 1982
    ...because he has done what the law allows him to do is a due process violation 'of the most basic sort.' " U.S. v. Goodwin, --- U.S. ----, 102 S.Ct. 2485, 2488, 73 L.Ed.2d 74 (1982), quoting Bordenkircher v. Page 1225 Hayes, 434 U.S. 357, 363, 98 S.Ct. 663, 667, 54 L.Ed.2d 604 (1978). Thus, w......
  • United States v. Johnson, No. CR 01–3046–MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • March 5, 2013
    ...was intended to punish him or her for the exercise of a legal right.” Id. (citing [United States v.] Goodwin, 457 U.S. [368,] 384 n. 19, 102 S.Ct. 2485[, 73 L.Ed.2d 74 (1982) ] ). “Second, a defendant may in certain circumstances rely on a presumption of vindictiveness.” Id.Graham, 323 F.3d......
  • U.S. v. Sarracino, No. 01-2308.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 19, 2003
    ...to fall four-square within Bordenkircher v. Hayes, 434 U.S. 357, 98 S.Ct. 663, 54 L.Ed.2d 604 (1978); see also United States v. Goodwin, 457 U.S. 368, 102 S.Ct. 2485, 73 L.Ed.2d 74 (1982)." I R. (Doc. 134). Not only is a presumption of vindictiveness inapplicable to the "give-and-take" of p......
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6 books & journal articles
  • PERJURY
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Nbr. 58-3, July 2021
    • July 1, 2021
    ...raise a realistic likelihood of vindictiveness by establishing the government’s conduct as unreasonable (quoting United States v. Goodwin, 457 U.S. 368, 383 (1982))); United States v. Hirsch, 360 F.3d 860, 864 (8th Cir. 2004) (f‌inding that the defendant failed to establish a prima facie ca......
  • CRUSHING THE SOUL OF FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDERS: THE PLEA BARGAINING MACHINE'S OPERATION AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT.
    • United States
    • Fordham Urban Law Journal Vol. 49 Nbr. 4, May 2022
    • May 1, 2022
    ...to abide by original plea bargain offer after defendant accepts it but before court accepts it); and then citing United States v. Goodwin, 457 U.S. 368 (1982) (finding a prosecutor's decision to add felony charge after defendant declines to plead guilty to a misdemeanor not constitutionally......
  • Equal Protection at the Erotic Oasis: Examining Selective Prosecution Claims in Lewd Conduct Cases
    • United States
    • Criminal Justice Review Nbr. 35-4, December 2010
    • December 1, 2010
    ...prosecutors have broad464 Criminal Justice Review 35(4)464 discretion in the filing of criminal charges (United States v. Goodwin, 457 U.S. 368, 380, n. 111982). In addition, appellate courts are mindful of the difficulty in reviewing such matters.The decision to prosecute any particular de......
  • Grounding the Lame Duck: the President, the Final Three Months, and Emergency Powers
    • United States
    • Georgetown Law Journal Nbr. 109-4, April 2021
    • April 1, 2021
    ...contracts or nominates his family members or himself to a protected agency or judicial position. 308. See, e.g., United States v. Goodwin, 457 U.S. 368, 384 (1982) (f‌inding presumption of prosecutorial vindictiveness unwarranted absent actual evidence of vindictiveness). 309. See Vill. of ......
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