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MEACHUM ET AL. v. LONGVAL.

April 18, 1983

MEACHUM ET AL
v.
LONGVAL.



C.A. 1st Cir. Reported below: 693 F.2d 236.

[ 460 U.S. Page 1098]

Motion of respondent for leave to proceed in forma pauperis granted. Certiorari denied.

[ 460 U.S. Page 1099]

     JUSTICE REHNQUIST, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE O'CONNOR join, dissenting.

Respondent Norman Longval robbed a drugstore in Swampscott, Mass. Longval, who had a previous record for larcenies and had served time for armed robbery, stole the getaway car and carried a shotgun during the robbery.

One of Longval's co-defendants, Richard Ellard, pleaded guilty. Ellard stated that he was drunk at the time and did not carry the gun. The sentencing judge noted that Ellard had not been in serious trouble before, and sentenced him to three years' imprisonment and three years' probation with a special term of probation requiring him to obtain treatment for alcoholism.

 Longval stood trial for armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, and unlawfully carrying a sawed-off shotgun, and was convicted. The trial judge sentenced Longval to 40-50 years in prison. The state appellate court later reduced this sentence to 30-40 years.

Longval sought a writ of error from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, claiming that the trial judge had improperly threatened him in an effort to coerce him into pleading guilty. The Supreme Judicial Court appointed a Special Master, who found that during the presentation of the prosecution's case-in-chief, the trial judge told Longval's defense attorney, in substance, that:

"the evidence in this case as it is coming in is very serious -- robbery of a drug store, taking [i.e. theft of] drugs, use of a shot-gun. I am wondering if you and the Commonwealth have had any discussion regarding a plea [of guilty]. I strongly suggest that you ask your client to consider a plea, because, if the jury returns a verdict of guilty, I might be disposed to impose a substantial prison sentence. You know that I am capable of doing that because you know of the sentences in a previous trial." 693 F.2d 236, 237 (CA1 1982).

[ 460 U.S. Page 1100]

     The Special Master did not construe this statement as a threat. Rather, he thought the judge made "a statement to a young lawyer of the judge's then general impression of the evidence as it had developed to that point."

The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Longval's conviction. Commonwealth v. Longval, 378 Mass. 246, 390 N.E. 2d 1117 (1979). It found that the judge had merely advised Longval's attorney of the sentences he had imposed in other cases and of the seriousness of the offense described in the evidence that had been presented, and advised him "not to forgo any advantage that might accrue to [him] by means of plea bargaining." Id., at 251-252, 390 N.E. 2d, at 1120.

Longval unsuccessfully petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus in the District Court. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed. 651 F.2d 818 (CA1 1981). We granted a petition for a writ of certiorari, vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals, and remanded for further consideration in light of United States v. Goodwin, 457 U.S. 368 (1982). 458 U.S. 1102 (1982).

On remand, the Court of Appeals adhered to its original view. 693 F.2d 236 (1982). It held that the trial judge's comments led to "a reasonable apprehension of vindictiveness," id., at 237, that requires resentencing before a different judge. The Court of Appeals thought that a judge may not make "a forceful recommendation to consider pleading [guilty], ending on a note of the judge's power to impose a substantial sentence if [the recommendation is] not complied with." Id., at 238. Thus, the Court of Appeals adopted a per se rule that requires resentencing whenever a state trial ...


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