State of Alabama vs. Smith

An Alabama grand jury indicted the accused, James Lewis Smith on charges of burglary, rape, and sodomy, all arising from a single alleged assault.  The accused pleaded guilty to the burglary and rape charges in exchange for the state’s agreement to dismiss the sodomy charge.  The trial court granted the state’s motion to dismiss the sodomy charge, accepted the accused’s guilty pleas on the burglary and rape charges.  The trial court sentenced the accused to two concurrent 30-year prison terms for convictions on both charges.  Later, the accused moved to withdraw his guilty pleas, on the ground that they had not been entered knowingly or voluntarily.  Although the trial court denied the motion, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the convictions and sentences and remanded the case to the trial court, finding that the accused had not been properly informed of the penalties associated with the crimes to which he had pleaded guilty.  The case was reassigned to the same trial judge, and the state moved to reinstate the sodomy charge.  The trial court granted the motion, and the accused went to a jury trial on all three original charges.  On finding the accused guilty on all three counts, the trial judge imposed a term of life imprisonment for the burglary conviction, a concurrent term of life imprisonment on the sodomy conviction, and a consecutive term of 150 years on the rape conviction.  The trial judge stated that such increased sentences were based on the evidence presented at trial, of which the judge had been unaware at the time of sentencing on the accused’s guilty pleas.  The evidence convinced the judge that the original sentence had been too lenient.  The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the convictions and the life sentences on the burglary and sodomy charges, but remanded the rape conviction for re sentencing.

On certiorari to review the re sentencing of the accused on the burglary charge, the Supreme Court of Alabama reversed and remanded, holding that the life sentence for burglary should be set aside, on the ground that such sentence had been impermissibly based on new information about events occurring prior to the imposition of the original sentence by the trial judge.  The Supreme Court held that the presumption of vindictiveness does not apply when a sentence imposed after trial is greater than that previously imposed after a guilty plea. since (1) the relevant sentencing information available to the judge after the accused’s plea will usually be considerably less than that available after trial, and (2) the factors that may have indicated leniency as consideration for the guilty plea are no longer present after trial.

Marshall, J., dissented, expressing the view that if for any reason a new trial is granted and there is a conviction the second time, the penalty imposed cannot exceed the first penalty if respect is had for the guarantee against double jeopardy.


Inside State of Alabama vs. Smith