The familiar rule established in Blockburger v. United States of America states that where the same act or transaction constitutes a violation of two distinct statutory provisions, cumulative punishment may not be imposed unless each provision requires proof of an additional fact which the other does not. The rule is one of statutory construction, applied in order to gauge Congress's intent that two statutory offenses be punished cumulatively. A court applies the test with a focus on the statutory elements of the offense. If each requires proof of a fact that the other does not, the Blockburger test is satisfied, notwithstanding a substantial overlap in the proof offered to establish the crimes.
Defendants were indicted for various crimes arising from their alleged participation in a support cell with the aim of promoting violent jihad as espoused by a radical Islamic fundamentalist movement. The trial court dismissed count one, which charged a violation 18 U.S.C.S. § 956(a)(1), on the basis that it was multiplicitous of counts two and three and violated the Double Jeopardy Clause. On appeal, the court reversed the trial court's order dismissing count one of the indictment.
Did the trial court err in dismissing count one of defendants’ indictment, the charge of conspiracy to murder, kidnap, and maim outside the United States in violation of § 956(a)(1), on the ground that it was multiplicitous of count two, the charge of conspiracy to provide material support in violation of § 371, and count three, the substantive offense of § 2339A, and violated the Double Jeopardy Clause?
The trial court erroneously focused on the facts giving rise to the charges rather than on whether the elements of the crimes met the U.S. Supreme Court's Blockburger test. Count one required proof that each defendant agreed with at least one person to commit acts constituting murder, kidnapping, and maiming. Count two, conspiracy to provide material support under 18 U.S.C.S. § 371, required proof that each defendant agreed with at least one other person to try to accomplish a common and unlawful plan. The common and unlawful plan was that defendants conspired to provide material support in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 2339A, the substantive offense charged in count three, i.e., providing material support or resources with the knowledge or intent that the support would be used in preparation for, or in carrying out, one of the object offenses listed in the statute. None of the charges could be merged into another as a lesser-included offense. None of the counts was multiplicitous. The Double Jeopardy Clause was not infringed.