Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Weckerly

Supreme Court of Maine

March 20, 2018

STATE OF MAINE
v.
JOHN A. WECKERLY

          Argued: October 25, 2017

          Hunter J. Tzovarras, Esq. (orally), Bangor, for appellant John A. Weckerly

          R. Christopher Almy, District Attorney, and Mark A. Rucci, Asst. Dist. Atty. (orally), Prosecutorial District V, Bangor, for appellee State of Maine

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          GORMAN, JUDGE.

         [¶1] John A. Weckerly appeals from a judgment of conviction for arson (Class A), 17-A M.R.S. § 8O2(1)(B)(2) (2017), entered by the trial court (Penobscot County, Anderson, /.) after a jury trial. Weckerly argues that the court's admission of evidence of crimes of which he was acquitted in a prior trial violated the collateral estoppel component of double jeopardy. Given the unique circumstances presented in this case, we agree and vacate the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] In November of 2011, a Penobscot County grand jury indicted Weckerly on one count of arson (Class A), 17-A M.R.S. § 8O2(1)(B)(2) (Count 1), for setting fire to a vehicle driven by an investigator with the State Fire Marshal's office on August 3, 2011, in Prentiss Plantation, a remote area of the county. Five months later, in April of 2012, the same grand jury issued a second indictment against Weckerly containing eleven additional charges, all alleged to have been committed by Weckerly in Prentiss Plantation between May of 2010 and July of 2011: aggravated criminal mischief (Class C), 17-AM.R.S. §805(1)(A) (2017) (Count 2); burglary (Class B), 17-AM.R.S. § 4Ol(1)(B)(4) (2017) (Count 6); theft by unauthorized taking (Class E), 17-AM.R.S. §353(1)(A) (2017) (Count 7); five counts of criminal mischief (Class D), 17-AM.R.S. § 8O6(1)(A) (2017) (Counts 3-5, 8, 11); two additional counts of arson (Class A), 17-A M.R.S. § 8O2(1)(B)(2) (Counts 9-10); and another count of arson (Class A), 17-A M.R.S. § 8O2(1)(A) (2017) (Count 12). In particular, in Counts 9 and 10, the State alleged that Weckerly had committed arson on the property of Chris Jones on November 16, 2010, and July 3, 2011, respectively; in Count 11, the State alleged that Weckerly had committed criminal mischief by spray-painting graffiti on the property of Joseph Couture on July 11, 2011; and in Count 12, the State alleged that Weckerly had committed arson on the property of John Dreon on July 20, 2011. Weckerly pleaded not guilty to all counts.

         [¶3] After a six-day trial in 2013, the jury found Weckerly not guilty of Counts 2-12, but could not reach a verdict on Count 1, the arson of the fire marshal's vehicle. The court entered a judgment acquitting Weckerly of Counts 2-12 and, with Weckerly's agreement, declared a mistrial on Count 1.

         [¶4] In preparation for the second trial, Weckerly moved in limine to exclude any evidence relating to Counts 2-12 on the ground that such evidence would violate double jeopardy principles because he had already been acquitted of those charges. After a hearing, the court denied the motion, concluding that double jeopardy did not preclude the admission of the evidence and that the evidence was admissible to show Weckerly's motive, intent, and state of mind.[1]

         [¶5] In 2015, the court conducted a second jury trial on Count 1. During the second trial, the court admitted evidence relating to Counts 9-12 that was presented in the first trial. Three times during the trial, the court instructed the jury that Weckerly had already been charged with-and acquitted of-those four crimes. The court denied Weckerly's later motion for a judgment of acquittal.

         [¶6] The jury found Weckerly guilty of the arson of the fire marshal's vehicle. The court entered a judgment on the verdict, sentencing Weckerly to seven years in prison, all suspended, with four years of probation and $5, 000 in restitution.[2] Weckerly appeals.

         II. DISCUSSION

         [¶7] Both the United States and Maine Constitutions offer protections against double jeopardy. U.S. Const, amend. V ("[N]or shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb . . . ."); Me. Const, art. I, § 8 ("No person, for the same offense, shall be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb."); Ayotte v. State, 2015 ME 158, ¶ 11, 129 A.3d 285. These provisions prevent a second prosecution for the same offense after an acquittal or conviction, or the imposition of multiple punishments for the same offense. Ayotte, 2015 ME 158, ¶ 13, 129 A.3d 285. As the United States Supreme Court has explained, the prohibition against double jeopardy serves

two vitally important interests. The first is the deeply ingrained principle that the State with all its resources and power should not be allowed to make repeated attempts to convict an individual for an alleged offense, thereby subjecting him to embarrassment, expense and ordeal and compelling him to live in a continuing state of anxiety and insecurity, as well as enhancing the possibility that even though innocent he may be found guilty. The second is the preservation of the finality of judgments.

Yeager v. United States, 557 U.S. 110, 117-18 (2009) (citations omitted) (quotation marks omitted).

         [¶8] Weckerly contends that the court violated his right to be protected against double jeopardy by admitting in his second trial evidence on which the State relied to try to prove some of the charges of which he was acquitted in his first trial-namely, evidence for Counts 9-12 regarding three arsons (two fires on Jones's property and one fire on Dreon's property) and one count of criminal mischief (spray-painted graffiti on Couture's property).[3] Weckerly's argument requires us to determine whether and to what extent evidence that was admitted in a prior prosecution to prove different criminal charges of which the defendant ultimately was acquitted may be admitted in a later prosecution.[4]We consider de novo whether the application of double jeopardy principles precludes the admission of evidence. Gray v. TD Bank, N.A., 2012 ME 83, ¶ 10, 45 A.3d 735; State v. Mitchell, 1998 ME 128, ¶ 4, 712 A.2d 1033.

         [¶9] Two United States Supreme Court cases are instructive. First, in Ashe v. Swenson, six men were playing poker when they were robbed at gunpoint by three or four assailants. 397 U.S. 436, 437 (1970). Each defendant was charged with a separate count of armed robbery as to each victim, and the charges were considered in separate trials. Id. at 438-39. After a jury trial, one of the defendants, Bob Ashe, was acquitted of the robbery as to one of the victims by a general verdict finding him "not guilty due to insufficient evidence." Id. at 439 (quotation marks omitted). In Ashe's second trial, he was convicted of the robbery of a different victim at the same poker game. Id. at 439-40.

         [¶10] Based on its determination that the "established rule [of collateral estoppel] is embodied in the Fifth Amendment guarantee against double jeopardy, " id. at 445, the Supreme Court held that "when an issue of ultimate fact has once been determined by a valid and final judgment, that issue cannot again be litigated between the same parties in any future lawsuit, " id. at 443. The Court held that when the first acquittal is based on a general jury verdict, the court in the second trial must "examine the record of [the] prior proceeding, taking into account the pleadings, evidence, charge, and other relevant matter" to determine "whether a rational jury could have grounded its verdict ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.