Grady v. Corbin

PETITIONER: William V. Grady, District Attorney of Dutchess County
RESPONDENT: Thomas J. Corbin
LOCATION: State Highway 55, LaGrange, NY

DOCKET NO.: 89-474
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: New York Court of Appeals

CITATION: 495 US 508 (1990)
ARGUED: Mar 21, 1990
DECIDED: May 29, 1990
GRANTED: Nov 06, 1989

Bridget R. Steller - on behalf of the Petitioner
Richard T. Farrell - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

Around 6:30 p.m. on October 3, 1987, Thomas Corbin drove his car across the yellow line that separated lanes of traffic and struck two oncoming cars on Route 55 near LaGrange, New York. Assistant District Attorney Thomas Dolan arrived on the scene and learned that Brenda and Daniel Dirago, the driver and passenger of one of the cars, had been injured. Later that night, Dolan learned Brenda Dirago had died in the hospital. Corbin received two misdemeanor tickets, one for driving while intoxicated and one for failing to keep to the right of the median.

Corbin pled guilty to both misdemeanors. The judge was unaware of the fatality the accident caused. On January 19, 1988, a grand jury indicted Corbin on charges of manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and reckless assault. Corbin filed a motion to dismiss the charges by arguing double jeopardy, but the county court denied the motion. Corbin sought a writ of prohibition to prevent further prosecution, which the Appellate Division denied. The New York Court of Appeals reversed.


Does the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment prevent a person from being charged with more severe offenses after being tried and convicted of lesser ones for the same action?

Media for Grady v. Corbin

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 21, 1990 in Grady v. Corbin

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in No. 89-474, William V. Grady v. Thomas J. Corbin.

Mrs. Steller, you may proceed.

Bridget R. Steller:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This matter is here on a writ of certiorari issued to the New York State Court of Appeals.

And the issue raised is whether, within the constraints of the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment, a motorist, who causes the death of another person as a result of an automobile collision, may be subject to a prosecution for homicide and/or assault, even though, at the scene of the collision and prior to the death of the motorist he or she... prior to the death of the other person that motorist is charged with driving while intoxicated and failure to keep right, and then subsequent to the death, enters pleas of guilty to those vehicle and traffic violations, and is sentenced.

In this case, on October 3rd, 1987 there was an automobile... there were... collision... an automobile driven by the Respondent, Thomas Corbin, was being operated in a westbound direction on Route 55 in the town of LaGrange.

It first collided with an eastbound vehicle and struck the rearview mirror... or struck the sideview mirror of that car.

It proceeded into the eastbound lane and struck a second vehicle in which Brenda Dirago was the operator and her husband, Daniel Dirago, was the passenger.

Respondent Corbin and both Mr. and Mrs. Dirago were taken to the hospital, where at approximately 8:00, Respondent Corbin was arrested for driving while intoxicated and failure to keep right.

He was issued traffic tickets for those offenses.

He then consented to having blood withdrawn, and blood was withdrawn for the purpose of chemical analysis at approximately 8:25 p.m.--

The defendant was not arraigned that night.

He was hospitalized.

The tickets which were issued to him, directed to... him to appear in the Town of LaGrange Court, a justice court, on October 29th, a Thursday night.

However, the Court did not sit on Thursday nights, it sits on Tuesday night.

So the Court sent a letter to the Respondent Corbin directing him to appear on an advanced return date, that date being October 27th.

No notice was given to the district attorney of the advanced return date.

On the night that the defendant appeared, it was not a night scheduled for the district attorney to be in that courtroom.

The defendant appeared with counsel, and entered pleas of guilty to both... both the misdemeanor of driving while intoxicated and the violation of failure to keep right.

William H. Rehnquist:

What is the jurisdiction of the justice court to which you refer, Mrs. Steller, so far as what kind of crimes can it hear pleas to?

Bridget R. Steller:

Chief Justice Rehnquist, it would generally hear misdemeanors and violations.

It would have preliminary jurisdiction over felonies, but its jurisdiction would be limited to holding a preliminary hearing, and setting bail on a non-Class A case, which would be a--

William H. Rehnquist:

Binding over, in effect?

Bridget R. Steller:

--Yes, Your Honor.

I might also add that an assistant district attorney was called to the scene of the accident on the night of October 3rd.

He was not there to assess what charges should be brought.

There was one purpose for him being called, and that was to prepare a search warrant if one was necessary to obtain blood.

When he arrived at the scene, the defendant had already been arrested and charged.

He learned that the defendant had consented to having blood withdrawn, and he left.

He had no further participation in the investigation that evening.