Morris v. Mathews
Annotate this Case
475 U.S. 237 (1986)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Morris v. Mathews, 475 U.S. 237 (1986)
Morris v. Mathews
Argued November 4, 1985
Decided February 26, 1986
475 U.S. 237
Respondent and another man (Daugherty) robbed a bank in Ohio. After an automobile chase, the police surrounded the two men when they stopped at a farmhouse. Thereafter, the police heard shots fired inside the house, and respondent emerged from the house and surrendered. The police then entered the house and found Daugherty dead. Based on the Coroner's opinion that Daugherty had committed suicide, the State did not charge respondent with Daugherty's death, but with aggravated robbery. Respondent pleaded guilty, but two days later admitted having shot Daugherty. Respondent was then indicted for aggravated murder based on the bank robbery. The state trial court denied his pretrial motion to dismiss the indictment as violative of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and he was found guilty after a jury trial. Ultimately, the Ohio Court of Appeals, finding that the Double Jeopardy Clause barred respondent's conviction for aggravated murder, modified that conviction to that of the lesser included offense of murder. After the Ohio Supreme Court denied respondent's motion to appeal, he sought a writ of habeas corpus in Federal District Court, which denied the petition. The Federal Court of Appeals reversed. Apparently agreeing with respondent's assertion that evidence was admitted at his trial for aggravated murder that would have been inadmissible in a trial for murder, and stating that the jury "may have been prejudiced" by that evidence, the court held that respondent had established a "reasonable possibility" that he was prejudiced by the double jeopardy violation sufficient to warrant a new trial on the murder charge.
Held: Reducing respondent's concededly jeopardy-barred conviction for aggravated murder to a conviction for murder that concededly was not jeopardy-barred was an adequate remedy for the double jeopardy violation. Pp. 475 U. S. 244-248.
(a) When a jeopardy-barred conviction is reduced to a conviction for a lesser included offense that is not jeopardy-barred, the burden shifts to the defendant to demonstrate a reasonable probability (i.e., a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome) that he would not have been convicted of the nonjeopardy-barred offense absent the presence of the jeopardy-barred offense. Where it is clear that the jury necessarily
found that the defendant's conduct satisfies the elements of the lesser included offense, it would be incongruous to order another trial as a means of curing the double jeopardy violation. Pp. 475 U. S. 244-247.
(b) Here, the Federal Court of Appeals' legal and factual basis for ordering the writ of habeas corpus was seriously flawed. Its "reasonable possibility" standard was not sufficiently demanding, it did not expressly say that it agreed with respondent that certain evidence admitted at his trial would not have been admitted in a separate trial for murder, nor did it refer to any Ohio authorities, and its observation that the admission of such evidence "may have prejudiced the jury" falls far short of a considered conclusion that, if the evidence at issue was not before the jury in a separate trial for murder, there was a reasonable probability that respondent would not have been convicted. Pp. 475 U. S. 247-248.
754 F.2d 158, reversed and remanded.
WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which POWELL, J., joined, post, p. 475 U. S. 248. BRENNAN, J., post, p. 475 U. S. 257, and MARSHAL, J., post, p. 475 U. S. 258, filed dissenting opinions.