Jones v. Thomas

LOCATION: Sable Communications of California

DOCKET NO.: 88-420
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 491 US 376 (1989)
ARGUED: Apr 26, 1989
DECIDED: Jun 19, 1989

Springfield Baldwin - on behalf of the Respondent
Stephen D. Hawke - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Jones v. Thomas

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 26, 1989 in Jones v. Thomas

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now on number 88-420, Jimmy Jones v. Larry P. Thomas.

You may proceed.

Stephen D. Hawke:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

To understand the double jeopardy issue and to understand the federalism issue before the Court today, it is necessary to, uh, to discuss briefly the facts that have led, the 15 years of facts that have lead up to this, to the present appeal.

In November of 1972, the respondent, in an attempted robbery and in in the City of St. Louis, killed a fellow named Mentoe Vernell.

The next spring, in May of '73, the respondent was found guilty in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis.

The Judge sentenced the respondent to 15 years imprisonment for the attempted robbery conviction and to life imprisonment for the first-degree murder conviction, those sentences to run consecutively and in that order.

In other words, 15 years, and once the 15 years is complete, then service of the life sentence begins.

In 1975, the conviction was affirmed by the Missouri Court of Appeals.

Two years later, in 1977, the respondent initiated a post-conviction action in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis.

A post-conviction action in State Court in the State of Missouri is called a 2726 motion, and we'll probably refer to it as that today.

In the year 1980 and in 1981, the Missouri Supreme Court issued two opinions in cases called State v. Olds and State v. Morgan.

In those cases, the Missouri Supreme Court determined that the Missouri legislature did not intend that there be multiple punishments, did not intend that the, that, that, that defendants be punished twice for felony murder and underlying felony.

Shortly after those opinions, on March 27, 1981, the 2726 motion, the PCR motion, was amended to include a double jeopardy claim on the basis of State v. Morgan and State v. Olds.

Later that year, three months later in June 16, 1981, then Governor Christopher Bond issued a commutation to the respondent for the attempted robbery conviction and sentence.

One year later, June of 1982, the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis granted respondent's motion for 2726 Relief.

The attempted robbery conviction and sentence were vacated.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Why was, why were these repeated actions taken after it had already been decided?

I, I just didn't understand why we had two additional proceedings after it had already been resolved.

Stephen D. Hawke:


Olds and Morgan are collateral proceedings.

They involve completely different defendants, and it was not until after Morgan and Olds were decided by the Missouri Supreme Court that the 2726 motion was amended to, to include a double jeopardy claim.

Before Morgan and Olds, there was no, there was no indication in the Missouri jurisprudence that there was a, there potentially could be a double jeopardy problem here.

In fact, in State versus Overstreet, the Missouri Supreme Court indicated that there was no double jeopardy problem.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

I guess you didn't understand my question.

I didn't understand why there was a commutation and then later this second proceeding to set, set it aside.

Stephen D. Hawke:


When the 2726 motion was initially filed in 1977, it was denied.

The denial went up on appeal to the Missouri Court of Appeals and was remanded back to the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis because there was an incomplete record for the, for the Missouri Court of Appeals to consider the 2726 appeal.

The Governor's commutation is completely separate.