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Lockett v. Montemango

February 14, 1986

SAMUEL LOCKETT, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
ALBERT MONTEMANGO, WARDEN, BROOKLYN HOUSE OF DETENTION, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT



Appeal from a judgment entered in the Eastern District of New York, Mark A. Costantino, District Judge, granting a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on grounds of double jeopardy and enjoining appellant from recommencing criminal prosecution against appellee.

Author: Timbers

Before TIMBERS, PIERCE and MINER, Circuit Judges.

TIMBERS, Circuit Judge:

The warden of the Brooklyn of Detention (the "State") appeals from a judgment entered in the Eastern District of New York, Mark A. Costantino, District Judge, which granted a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, enjoined the State from prosecuting Samuel Lockett ("appellee") for armed robbery, and ordered the State to examine under its civil commitment procedures.

The district court, in an opinion directly contrary to a unanimous opinion of the New York Court of Appeals in the underlying criminal action, held that, since the state trial court previously had accepted appellee's plea of not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect, the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution barred the State from vacating that plea based on fraud and from prosecuting appellee. The State argues that the district court erred in holding that the prior state plea proceeding placed appellee in jeopardy.

We hold that, since appellee never was at risk of conviction in the state plea proceeding, no jeopardy attached and the State may prosecute him on the charges for which he originally was indicted without violating the double jeopardy clause. We reverse.

I.

We summarize only those facts believed necessary to an understanding of the issues raised on appeal.

Appellee was arrested on January 5, 1981 at the scene of an armed robbery of a retail store. Subsequently, a grand jury in the New York Supreme Court for Kings County indicted him on eighteen counts of armed robbery and related offenses, all stemming from a spree of retail store armed robberies that occurred between December 6, 1980 and appellee's arrest. After indictment, appellee underwent three separate examinations to determine if he was fit to stand trial. The first of these examinations, concluded in January 1982, resulted in a finding that appellee was not fit to stand trial. The court-appointed psychiatrist found that appellee was suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") as a result of his combat experiences during the Vietnam War-sometimes referred to as "Vietnam War syndrome". This disorder manifested itself in nightmares and "flashbacks" to the horrors of combat.*fn1 A second examination three months later found appellee still suffering from a "personality disorder" but fit to stand trial. A final examination in September 1982 found appellee fit to stand trial, although appellee still exhibited many symptoms of PTSD.

After being found fit to stand trial, appellee informed the trial court that he wanted to enter a plea of not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law ยง 220.15 (McKinney 1982).

Appellee could have raised his alleged lack of criminal responsibility at trial as a defense. Section 220.15, an insanity defense reform measure enacted in 1980, allows a defendant to raise the issue in the form of a plea prior to trial. If the State consents and the court accepts the plea, all criminal proceedings are terminated and the defendant is remanded for possible civil commitment.*fn2

At the State's request, the trial court ordered an examination of appellee by a State-chosen psychiatrist. This doctor also concluded that appellee from PTSD. On April 13, 1983 the trial court conducted a hearing to determine whether to accept appellee's plea. The State, after reporting the finding of its psychiatrist and summarizing its evidence against appellee, consented to the entry of the plea, concluding that it could not disprove appellee's defense of lack of criminal responsibility. The court, after finding that the State could prove all elements of the charged offenses but could not disprove appellee's defense, engaged appellee in the requisite allocution and accepted the plea. The court then remanded appellee to the New York Commission on Mental Health for examinations to determine if civil commitment was warranted.

In preparation for the civil commitment hearing, the State subpoenaed appellee's military records. The State had attempted to subpoena these records prior to the plea proceeding, but the National Personnel Records Center refused to honor the subpoena because it failed to comply with federal regulations. the second subpoena was honored and the State received appellee's military records on June 1, 1983. The records disclosed that appellee never served in Vietnam, but spent his entire military career in Texas as an accounting clerk.

In view of this fraud, the State moved in the trial court on June 7, 1983 to vacate appellee's plea. Appellee opposed the motion, arguing, among other things, that the trial court had no authority to vacate his plea and that recommencing prosecution against him would violate the double jeopardy clause. In an opinion dated October 27, 1983,*fn3 the trial court vacated appellee's plea. The court held that it had inherent power to vacate fraudulently procured pleas. The court also ...


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