In determining whether double-jeopardy protection applies, courts apply the test enunciated by the United States Supreme Court in Blockburger v. United States. The applicable rule is that, where the same act or transaction constitutes a violation of two distinct statutory provisions, the test to be applied to determine whether there are two offenses or only one, is whether each provision requires proof of a fact which the other does not. A single act may be an offense against two statutes; and if each statute requires proof of an additional fact which the other does not, an acquittal or conviction under either statute does not exempt the defendant from prosecution and punishment under the other. Blockburger is met when each crime requires proof of an element not necessary to the other.
Defendant and two others robbed a poker game in progress at a country club, killing two of the poker players. The grand jury indicted defendant on two counts of capital murder and two counts of armed robbery. Defendant pleaded guilty to all four counts, and was sentenced to life imprisonment for each of the two capital murder charges and twenty-four years for each of the two robbery charges, with the sentences to run consecutively. Defendant filed a post-conviction-relief petition in the Washington County Circuit Court, claiming that the trial court placed him in double jeopardy by convicting him of capital murder and the underlying felony of armed robbery. The trial court held that because of the wording in the indictment, had the case gone to trial, the jury could have found that the murder victims were not victims of armed robbery and still found defendant guilty of the capital murders based on the armed robbery of the other victims. The circuit court denied the motion; after an appeal and remand, it again denied the motion. Defendant appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Was the defendant placed in double jeopardy, when he was convicted on two counts of armed robbery and two counts of capital murder for killing while engaged in the commission of those same two armed robberies?
The identity of the victim of the underlying felony was an element of the offense of capital murder that was required to be stated in the capital-murder indictment. Accordingly, defendant could not have been convicted on an indictment of capital-murder based on the "armed robbery of others;" his capital-murder convictions had to have been based on the armed robberies of the named victims. Because he was convicted of capital-murder for killing during the commission of the armed robberies of the named murder victims, and then separately convicted for the armed robberies of the same named victims, he was placed in double jeopardy. Finding that defendant was placed in double jeopardy when he was convicted of capital murder (killing while engaged in the commission of armed robbery) and the included offense of armed robbery, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Washington County Circuit Court denying defendant's petition for post-conviction collateral relief and vacated his two armed-robbery convictions and sentences.