THIGPEN V. ROBERTS, 468 U. S. 27 (1984)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Thigpen v. Roberts, 468 U.S. 27 (1984)

Thigpen v. Roberts

No. 82-1330

Argued April 23, 1984

Decided June 27, 1984

468 U.S. 27


Following an accident in which he lost control of his car and collided with a pickup truck, killing a passenger in the truck, respondent was charged with four misdemeanors -- reckless driving, driving while his license was revoked, driving on the wrong side of the road, and driving while intoxicated. Upon being convicted of these charges in a Mississippi Justice of the Peace Court, he appealed, and the case was transferred to the Circuit Court for a trial de novo. While the appeal was pending, he was indicted for manslaughter based on the same accident, and was convicted. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed, refusing respondent leave to pursue state postconviction remedies. Respondent then brought a habeas corpus action in Federal District Court, which adopted a Magistrate's report holding that the manslaughter prosecution violated the Double Jeopardy Clause, and that substitution of a felony charge covering the conduct for which respondent had been convicted of the misdemeanors violated the Due Process Clause. The Court of Appeals affirmed, relying solely on the double jeopardy ground.


1. The prosecution of respondent for manslaughter, following his invocation of his statutory right to appeal his misdemeanor convictions, was unconstitutional as a violation of due process. Blackledge v. Perry, 417 U. S. 21. The fact that the proceedings before the Justice of the Peace were the county prosecutor's responsibility, whereas the felony indictment was obtained by the District Attorney, who was then involved in the manslaughter trial, may not make inappropriate the presumption of unconstitutional vindictiveness arising from obtaining that indictment. That presumption does not hinge on the continued involvement of a particular individual. In any event, here the county prosecutor was the State's sole representative at the arraignment on the felony indictment and, as required by statute, assisted at the manslaughter trial. Pp. 30-32.

2. Although the Court of Appeals and the petition for certiorari addressed only the double jeopardy issue, this Court, without deciding that issue, will decide the due process issue and not remand it to the Court of Appeals, where it was argued in both courts below, the State's opposition

Page 468 U. S. 28

to the Magistrate's report and its brief to the Court of Appeals are before this Court, and the factual record is adequate. Pp. 32-33.

693 F.2d 132, affirmed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 468 U. S. 33. O'CONNOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which POWELL, J., joined, post, p. 468 U. S. 40.

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