State ex rel. Watson v. Ferguson

In State ex rel. Watson v. Ferguson, 166 W.Va. 337, 274 S.E.2d 440 (1980), the Court was confronted with a situation in which the defendant was charged in one indictment with the murder of four persons. 166 W. Va. at 338, 274 S.E.2d at 441. After conviction for one of the murders, the defendant argued that double jeopardy barred further prosecution for the other murders. The Court denied that relief in prohibition and explained that "where multiple homicides occur even though they are in close proximity in time, if they are not the result of a single volitive act of the defendant, they may be tried and punished separately under the double jeopardy clause of Article III, Section 5 of the West Virginia Constitution." Id. at 352-53, 274 S.E.2d at 448. The Court also formulated a procedural joinder rule, explaining as follows at syllabus point one: A defendant shall be charged in the same indictment, in a separate count for each offense, if the offenses charged, whether felonies or misdemeanors or both, are of the same or similar character, or are based on the same act or transaction, or are two or more acts or transactions connected together or constituting parts of a common scheme or plan. (166 W. Va. at 337, 274 S.E.2d at 440.) With specific regard to issues of consistency between a procedural joinder rule and principles of double jeopardy, the Watson Court further explained as follows: It must be stressed, however, that any procedural rule on joinder is not designed to supplant the constitutional double jeopardy doctrine, since this latter doctrine will ultimately determine whether two related offenses are the "same offense" for double jeopardy purposes, which if so found will preclude not only separate trials but also separate punishments. (166 W. Va. at 344-45, 274 S.E.2d at 444.)