Jeffers v. United States

RESPONDENT:United States
LOCATION:Central Prison

DOCKET NO.: 75-1805
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 432 US 137 (1977)
ARGUED: Mar 21, 1977
DECIDED: Jun 16, 1977

Stephen C. Bower – for petitioner
William F. Sheehan, III – for respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Jeffers v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – March 21, 1977 in Jeffers v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 16, 1977 in Jeffers v. United States

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in 75-871, Manson against Brathwaite will be announced by Mr. Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

With the Chief Justices’ permission, I think I’ll take up the other case first.

Warren E. Burger:

Yes, if you if you will, Mr. Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

No. 75-1805, Jeffers against the United States comes to us from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and I take it up first because it is related in a way to Brown against Ohio which Mr. Justice Powell has just announced.

This case too raises a double jeopardy issue in the context of a trial for a lesser offense followed by a trial for a greater offense.

Brown, Mr. Justice Powell has stated was concerned with driving an automobile without the owner’s possession or permission and then auto theft.

The Jeffers case instead concerns a charge of conspiring to distribute heroine and coke, cocaine and the conduct of a continuing criminal enterprise to violate the drug laws of the Federal Government.

Mr. Jeffers’ activity centered in Gary Indiana, and it appears to be accepted as a fact that he was the head of a highly sophisticated narcotics distribution network in that city from 1972 to 1974.

A federal grand jury returned two indictments against him, one charging him and nine others with conspiracy, and the second charging him with criminal enterprise endeavor.

The United States moved to consolidate the two indictments for trial.

This motion, however, was opposed by Jeffers and his co-defendants under the conspiracy charge.

Their opposition was on the ground that neither the parties nor the charges were the same and that much of the evidence on the conspiracy case would be inadmissible against Jeffers on the second charge.

The Government’s motion was denied.

Jeffers and six of his co-defendants were then tried and found guilty of conspiracy.

He received a maximum sentence of 15 years and a fine.

Jeffers then moved to dismiss the other indictment on double jeopardy grounds claiming that conspiracy was a lesser included offense of the continuing criminal enterprise charge, and this motion was denied.

The second trial went on and again, he was found guilty, and this time, he also received a maximum sentence namely life imprisonment and a $100,000.00 fine.

The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that a case here two years ago in Yanelli against the United States created a new double jeopardy rule applicable only to complex statutory crimes.

We disagree with that analysis by the Court of Appeals but generally affirm the judgement except as to the duplication of punishment and thus, the judgement is affirmed in part and vacated in part and the case is remanded.

I have filed an opinion which is joined by the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Powell and Mr. Justice Rehnquist.

The four of us withhold that Jeffers’ action in opposing the Government’s motion to consolidate the two indictments for trial served to deprive him of any right he might have had against consecutive trials.

We regard this as an exception to the rule established today in Brown against Ohio which has just been announced.

Jeffers could have been tried in one proceeding but he chose not to be so tried, and thus, he was responsible for the separate prosecutions.

We also hold, however, that to the extent there were cumulative penalties under the two statutes.

Jeffers is entitled to have the fine imposed at the second trial reduced to the maximum specified in the major statute.

Mr. Justice White has filed a separate opinion.

He concludes that the Yanelli case controls this one and thus, he concurs in the judgement with respect to the Jeffers’ conviction.

Mr. Justice Stevens, who was joined by Mr. Justice Brennan, Mr. Justice Stewart, and Mr. Justice Marshall, has filed an opinion concurring in the judgement to the extent that it vacates the cumulative finds but otherwise dissents.