Appealing a Guilty Plea: Commonwealth vs. Jose Negron,
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court,
Opinion Issued May 2, 2012,
Subject: Guilty Plea Appeals based upon Duplicitous Charges and Double Jeopardy
Defendant appealed his guilty plea to armed assault in a dwelling on the ground that it was duplicative of the conviction of aggravated burglary. The Court analyzed the argument on two grounds: (1) the legislative intent regarding punishment based upon duplicitous charges and (2) whether the defendant, by pleading guilty, waived his right to raise double jeopardy and due process issues on appeal
The Court determined that “where a defendant is convicted of greater and lesser offenses based on the same act, and where the Legislature has not declared its intent that a defendant be punished separately for both offenses, punishing a defendant for both offenses would exceed legislative authorization and be contrary to legislative intent.” Addionally, the Court stated that the defendant was entitled to appeal the guilty plea citing Commonwealth v. Kuklis, 361 Mass. 302, 305-306 (1972).
“A guilty plea is an admission of the facts charged and ‘is itself a conviction.” Kuklis, supra at 305. Rule 30(a) therefore permits a defendant to raise a double jeopardy challenge to his continued confinement or restraint arising from a criminal conviction, whether from a guilty plea or a jury verdict, “at any time, as of right.” Consequently, under both our common law and rules of criminal procedure, a defendant is not barred by his guilty plea from bringing an appeal or collateral challenge to his conviction on the ground that the conviction violated the prohibition against double jeopardy.
The Court dispensed with the Commonwealth’s argument for waiver of that right upon a guilty plea. In Commonwealth v. Clark, 379 Mass. 623, 625-626 (1980), the court decided as a matter of State procedural common law that a guilty plea does not relinquish a defendant’s entitlement to challenge a conviction on double jeopardy grounds. The Court embraced the Clark analysis and rejected the Commonwealth’s reliance on the Federal rule of relinquishment stating that it has no consequence to collateral review of a guilty plea in a Massachusetts court and may not override our declaration of a different procedural rule. The Supreme Court of Massachusetts further opined that even if the Federal law were controlling precedent, it would not foreclose the collateral review sought by the defendant here, because the Supreme Court declared an exception to its rule “where on the face of the record the court had no power to enter the conviction or impose the sentence.” United States v. Broce, 488 U.S. 563, 569 (1989).
With respect to the duplicitous nature of the charges themselves, the Court analyzed this case as they did Commonwealth v. Anderson, 461 Mass. 616 (2012) concluding that ‘a defendant may properly be punished for two crimes arising out of the same course of conduct provided that each crime requires proof of an element that the other does not.’ Commonwealth v. Valliere, 437 Mass. 366, 371 (2002). The Court determined that the two charges the defendant was contesting were not duplicitous.
For the full opinion, please reference the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court website: http://www.massreports.com/slipops/