US V. Chagra (1986) – (mental state of conspiracy)
- Chagras et al were charged with conspiracy to commit first degree murder of a federal judge and first degree murder of a federal judge.
- Jimmy Chagra (whose trial was severed from the others) and who was the not found guilty was induced to enter into a plea bargain in a separate unrelated case in part due to the prosecutor promising to recommend a 20-year sentence and not a 30-year sentence to the judge in the case of Mrs. Chagra if her current case on appeal was affirmed. She had been tried and convicted of the original conspiracy and murder charges and was then currently appealing those convictions.
- Mrs. Chagra’s case on appeal was not affirmed. Mrs. Chagra’s case on appeal was reversed and remanded for a new trial. There was an error in jury instructions. The jury was not properly instructed that the requisite mental state for a murder one conviction was that of malice aforethought and premeditation. A First Degree Murder Conviction requires proof of this mental state.
- Following the reversal, Mrs. Chagra was indited on a superseding indictment for second degree (unpremeditated) murder.
- Mrs. Chagra was convicted of the crime of second degree murder and her conviction was affirmed. She was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment.
- Trial for 1st Degree Murder and Conspiracy.
- Jimmy Chagra severed out and not found Guilty.
- Mrs Chagra found guilty Conviction at Trial.
- Jimmy Chagra enters plea bargain on a separate case which includes a 20-year recommendation by the prosecutor in Mrs. Chagra’s case if her then pending appeal resulted in an affirmation of conviction.
- Reversed and Remanded for New Trial.
- Mrs. Chagra given New Trial for 2nd Degree Murder.
- Mrs. Chagra found guilty.
- Mrs. Chagra sentenced to 30-years for 2nd Degree Murder.
- Motion to reduce sentence to 20-years under Rule 35.
- Motion Denied.
- Mrs.Chagra files motion to reconsider.
- Jimmy Chagra intervenes also in motion to reconsider.
- Mrs. Chagra appeals on the grounds of breach of the plea agreement previously given to Jimmy Chagra by the prosecutors office.
- Conviction affirmed.
Issue: Was the plea agreement with Jimmy Chagra breached by the 30-Year Sentence given to Mrs. Chagra in a subsequent prosecution and also was it reasonable for Jimmy Chagra to believe that he had been given a promise that Mrs. Chagra was not to do more than 20-years?
Reasoning: The current appeal Mrs. Chagra was fighting was not upheld. Her case was reversed and remanded. She was even then charged with a lesser included crime and not the superseding including crime. Therefore her conviction was proper and so was her sentencing because the de facto appeal referenced in the plea bargain entered into by Jimmy Chagra did not result in an affirmation of conviction, but a reversal instead with the case being remanded to the lower court for a new trial. The rule 35 motion for reduction was properly not granted in the new conviction on the new trial.
- Though Prosecutorial Vindictiveness does in fact exist and has in fact been proved in different cases over the years, it is simply not present in this case. The elements of the plea bargain were clear and the agreement was not breached. It was not reasonable for Jimmy Chagra to think that a prosecutor could ever make a blanket cap on sentencing for yet to be charged crimes.
- There was no violation of due process. The prosecutor did not act in vindictiveness by charging a different crime on remand. If anything it was the opposite given that a Death Sentence cannot be given as a punishment for 2nd Degree Murder.
- The right to appeal was not punished by the acts of the prosecutor.
Conclusion: Conviction and Sentencing Upheld.