Clarence Spann, Raymond Pendleton, Lawrence Samuels, Darryl Turner and Charles Brownlow who were defendants in the case People versus Pendleton were indicted on rape charges. After presentation of evidence the first time, alleged prosecutorial misconduct resulted in declaration of a mistrial. After a second bench, a ruling was made which found the defendants guilty of rape and sentenced them to imprisonment.
The defendants then appealed on the basis of inter alia claiming they had been placed in jeopardy twice for the same offense by the second prosecution. This is in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. They were represented by the Public Defender’s Office.
The first witness for the first bench trial was called Wanda. She testified how she was at home with the complainant and were planning to go for a movie, but they decided to hang out with Wanda’s boyfriend as well as his friend who was the complainant’s date. The four went to an apartment belonging to Samuel’s aunt where they were later joined by the defendants. Wanda knew the men from the neighborhood. Wanda and her boyfriend left to buy drinks after sometime and on returning shortly, they were informed that the complainant had left. However after a long time of arguing and waiting, the complainant came to the car and claimed she had been raped by the men. They took her home and she told her mum who then reported to the police.
Delores Ryan who was on duty on the night of the incident testified how she received a phone call to go and conduct investigation into an alleged rape case. The complainant was next on the stand and gave a testimony that corroborated with Wanda’s witness account. She went into further details explaining the actual events that transpired on the fateful night.
During re-cross-examination, it was discovered that the complainant had talked to the State Attorney. This was criticized by the defense counsel and the redirect examination testimony of the complainant was struck off. The following Monday, two Assistant State Attorneys appeared for the Monday proceedings. One swore that despite meeting the complainant, he had not in any way prepared her on testifying. Based on this, the trial court denied the defense counsel’s appeal to have the complainant redirect testimony struck off.
Afterwards, some of the defendants took to the stand and gave their own account of the events. However, the defense counsel asked for the striking motion once more. There was a vigorous debate in the trial chambers and the prosecutor insisted that he did not in any way try to influence the testimony of the girl. The court then declared a mistrial owing to the fact that the Assistant State Attorney had reviewed all of the complainant’s evidence away from the court.
The ruling for the case was that the defendant’s constitutional rights which protect them from being placed in double jeopardy had been violated and the court, therefore, reversed the convictions of the defendants and directed that each of their indictments be dismissed.
The defendants argued that their first trial ended up as a mistrial due to overreaching by the prosecution. Re-prosecution of any of them would, therefore, be in violation of the double jeopardy clause of the United States Constitution. The double jeopardy clause was established primarily to preserve the integrity of courts’ final judgments and also protect the interests of the defendants against multiple prosecutions. A second trial is deemed to be unfair if the first trial has not been concluded. According to the ruling in the 1978 ruling of Arizona V. Washington, it places an extra financial and emotional burden on the defendant and also extends the period in which he is looked at as a suspect by the community and stigmatized because of an unresolved accusation of wrongdoing.
Another reason was due to manifest necessity which occurs when the trial can no longer be conducted owing to reasons beyond the control of the court or because of prosecutorial error. Retrial is allowed if the manifest necessity is caused by prosecutorial or judicial error. If it is, however, due to overreaching by the prosecution or the jury, then a retrial is forbidden.
Overreaching has been defined as misconduct by the prosecution or the jury aimed at provoking a mistrial so that a second trial is secured which could offer a more favorable opportunity for successful conviction of the accused. It is a sign of lack of integrity of the judicial proceedings and completely unacceptable. In such cases, the interests of the defendants override those of the society in law enforcement. A retrial cannot be granted whether the mistrial was requested by the defendant or the prosecution. The only determinant therefore for this case on whether the case could be retried or not was to confirm whether the conduct of the assistant State Attorney could be described as overreaching.
It is allowed for an attorney to review a witness’ testimony and refresh her memory before trail. This usually helps to ease the process of direct examination as well as weed out any unnecessary questions and prejudicial interpolations. It also allowed for an attorney to have consultations with the witness after the witness has taken the stand if there are legitimate reasons to do so.
In this case, the assistant state attorney realized that their case was not going well. The state was having a hard time proving Prima facie that the defendants were guilty because the complainant was unable to identify them. After the meeting between the attorney and the complainant, the complainant was able to identify the witnesses quickly and without hesitation. This drastic change was what prompted the defense attorney to inquire from her whether she had met with any of the attorneys. The attorneys were quite about the whole things and did not volunteer any details about their meeting.
There was no pressing legitimate need for the assistant state attorney to meet with the complainant. Furthermore, there was absolutely no need to have a review of her previous testimony. The claims by the attorney that the meeting was only to relieve pressure off the complainant and make her more confident were dismissed on grounds that there were other more straightforward ways of relieving her of her nervousness apart from the suspicious meeting.
From these facts, there was misconduct from the assistant attorney from not only meeting with the complainant but also attempting to conceal this fact. His actions seemed not to be motivated in good faith but rather based on fear and panic that the court would acquit the defendants. Eagerness and vigor should never override the duty of an attorney to be faithful to the society and act in the interest of justice. In conclusion, the actions of the assistant state attorney are completely unacceptable and comprised of overreaching; which bars the re-prosecution of the defendants.