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United States v. Corona – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In United States v. Corona, 804 F.2d 1568 (11th Cir. 1987), the appellants were originally charged -- in a multi-count indictment -- with racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, "as well as various related predicate offenses which were all incorporated into the racketeering and racketeering conspiracy counts." Corona, 804 F.2d at 1569.

The jury was deadlocked and the court declared a mistrial. Id. Three months later, appellants were charged -- in superseding indictments -- with offenses that "did not change the general allegations of the first trial...... However, several specific charges were altered, some new charges were added, and other charges were deleted. " Id.

Included in these changes was the "addition of overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy; and additional counts of mail fraud and Travel Act violations." Id.

Appellants argued that, because they had been placed in jeopardy during the first trial, the superseding indictments should have been dismissed. The Corona Court rejected that argument, explaining:

Appellants base their argument on two well-established principles of law. First, defendants rely on the concept of "continuing jeopardy," set forth in Richardson v. United States, 468 U.S. 317, 82 L. Ed. 2d 242, 104 S. Ct. 3081 (1984).....Since jeopardy was not terminated by the declaration of a mistrial, it could not be double jeopardy to retry the defendant.

The second principle of law relied upon by defendants holds that a superseding indictment cannot be brought once a trial on the merits has begun. See United States v. DelVecchio, 707 F.2d 1214, 1216 (11th Cir. 1983); United States v. Cole, 755 F.2d 748, 757 (11th Cir. 1985).

Defendants combine the foregoing principles of law, arguing that since this case involves continuing jeopardy under Richardson , then this case is like a single trial for jeopardy purposes and a superseding indictment cannot be brought once trial has begun. The defendants have linked together two unrelated principles of law and have sought to draw conclusions which go beyond the purpose and rationale of the two established principles. Defendant's argument lacks force when we consider the rationale behind disallowing superseding indictments during a trial on the merits. The implicit rationale behind such holdings is that a defendant should have advance notice of the charges against him. See, e.g., United States v. Edwards, 777 F.2d 644, 649 (11th Cir. 1985)(additional superseding charges in superseding indictment put defendants on notice, in a timely manner, of those charges against which they had to defend), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1123, 90 L. Ed. 2d 188, 106 S. Ct. 1643 (1986); United States v. Wilks, 629 F.2d 669, 672 (10th Cir. 1980)(holding that superseding indictment before trial was not prejudicial to defendant since it presented no factual questions that should not have been answered by defendant's investigation of original indictment). Changes in the substance of the indictment, therefore, should not be foisted upon a defendant after trial begins. However, this rationale does not apply in the current context. After a mistrial because the jury hung or for any other such reason, the defendant would have ample time to prepare for his defense under a superseding indictment. Therefore, even though jeopardy has attached to the defendant, the practical effect of a superseding indictment after a hung jury is no different from one returned with ample time before a trial on the merits.

We now set forth the proper application of the two principles of law to this case. Since the mistrial here as a result of the hung jury did not terminate the jeopardy which has attached to the defendants, the retrial of the defendants was not double jeopardy. Richardson v. United States, 468 U.S. at 325. Since the superseding indictment allowed ample time for defendants' preparation prior to retrial, it was analogous to a superseding indictment before trial and was not analogous to a superseding indictment during trial.

(Corona, 804 F.2d 1568 at 1570.)