What is Judicial Vindictiveness?

So you have a trial and you are found guilty and the judge sentences you to 45 years in jail. You file an appeal and win, and you get a new trail. However, you are found guilty again but this time the judge sentences you to 50 years in jail. Did the judge increase your sentence because you exercised your right to appeal? If so, that’s called judicial vindictiveness and it was the issue in a recent appeal out of Kaufman County.

Today’s case of the day is-

No. 05-13-00130-CR ROMAN JESSE MENDOZA, Appellant V. THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

What happened?

Mendoza was convicted of murder in 2009 and the judge sentenced him to 45 years. The Dallas Court of Appeals reversed that conviction and Mendoza got a new trial. Mendoza was convicted again and this time the judge sentenced him to 50 years. So Mendoza filed an appeal judicial vindictiveness because the sentence was increased because he asserted his right to appeal. But… while on bond for the new trial Mendoza picked up a DWI arrest, which is important so remember that. Let’s look at the law first.

What is judicial vindictiveness?

From the opinion-

It is well-established that the “imposition of a penalty upon the defendant for having
successfully pursued a statutory right of appeal . . . [is] a violation of due process of law.” North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711, 724 (1969), overruled in part on other grounds in Alabama v. Smith, 490 U.S. 794 (1989)….

A trial court’s reasons for imposing a harsher sentence after a new trial must appear affirmatively in the record. Alabama v. Smith, 490 U.S. 794, 798 (1989). Otherwise, a presumption arises that the trial court imposed a greater sentence for a vindictive purpose. Id. at 798-99. The State may rebut this presumption with objective information justifying the increased sentence. Id. at 799. And the trial court may consider any information that reasonably bears on the defendant’s proper sentence. Wasman v. United States, 468 U.S. 559, 563 (1984).

What does that mean? 

Basically a judge can not increase your sentence merely because you asserted your right to appeal. That is, a Defendant can not be punished for appealing his conviction. So if a judge is going to issue a harsher sentence at a retrial, there must be some new evidence to justify a harsher sentence.

Oh, so the new DWI is going to count as new evidence to justify a harsher sentence?

Exactly. The Dallas Court of Appeals held that the evidence of the new DWI charge was enough to justify a harsher sentence and defeat the Defendant’s argument of a vindictive sentence.

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