SCOTUS Bars Prosecution in Commonwealth v. George

by | Apr 11, 2012

In the recent case of Commonwealth v. George, the defendant pleaded guilty to two cocaine deliveries that were made in 2007, he was sentenced and served his time.  He was later charged by grand-jury presentment with two counts of corrupt organizations and one count of conspiracy to deliver cocaine, stemming from his narcotics-trafficking activity prior to his arrest for the 2007 cocaine deliveries.

The defendant filed a motion to bar subsequent prosecution under the compulsory-joinder rule contained in 18 Pa.C.S. Sec. 110, which bars a second prosecution for the same criminal conduct or for conduct that arose from the same criminal episode as a former prosecution.

The trial court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss.  The Commonwealth then appealed.

On appeal, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal, focusing on two key points in determining that the defendant’s subsequent prosecution arose from the same criminal conduct and thereby barred by the compulsory-joinder rule, as the facts of the latter prosecution were logically and temporally related to the former conviction.

First, the Superior Court found that the charges arose out of the same factual nucleus and that they had duplication of witnesses and evidence.

Second, the facts of both prosecutions were intertwined.  The bulk of the grand jury evidence against the defendant referenced his arrest in 2007, and the statement he made at that time.  Also, the preliminary hearing on the new charges arose from the same factual nucleus as the former prosecution.

As in many of the cases on double jeopardy claims based on compulsory joinder, our appellate courts are concerned whether there would be factual overlap.  That is, they look at whether there would be duplication of witnesses and evidence in a subsequent prosecution when determining if prosecutions are from the same criminal conduct or arose from the same criminal episode.  A criminal lawyer must be mindful that there are many ways to demonstrate that conduct arose from the same criminal episode, such as from prior testimony from any court proceeding, witness statements and investigation reports.

To read Commonwealth v. George, 458 A.2d 177 (Pa. Super. 1983), click here.

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