July 18, 2019

Tenth Circuit: Double Jeopardy Doctrine Prohibits Multiple Punishments Unauthorized by Legislatures

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in Wood v. Milyard on Monday, July 8, 2013.

Patrick Wood was convicted of first degree felony murder, second degree murder, and several lesser charges. After 25 years of unsuccessful appeals and habeas petitions, the Tenth Circuit rejected Mr. Wood’s federal habeas petition as untimely, noting on its own motion that the statute of limitations barred his way. The Supreme Court reversed after finding that the State of Colorado had waived any statute of limitations defense. In the instant case, the Tenth Circuit considered two claims: one alleging that Wood’s double jeopardy rights were violated by his simultaneous convictions for first and second degree murder in a case involving the death of a single victim, the other alleging that Mr. Wood’s waiver of his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial was not voluntary, knowing, and intelligent because of his attorney’s bad advice.

The State objected to Wood bringing these claims because he failed to raise them in state court. The Tenth Circuit held that Colo. R. Crim. P. 35 did not bar the claims because, unlike now, the version in effect at the time of Wood’s conviction did not require they be brought as part of a direct appeal.

The court found that Colorado does not allow multiple murder convictions for the killing of one person. Because double jeopardy doctrine prohibits multiple punishments unauthorized by legislatures, one of Wood’s convictions had to be overturned. The court remanded to the district court with instructions to grant the writ of habeas corpus conditionally. It instructed the district court to vacate the first degree murder conviction Wood challenged in federal court only if no state court vacated either of his two murder convictions within a reasonable time.

Wood waived his right to a jury trial and contended his written waiver was not knowing, voluntary, and intelligent because his attorney failed to explain its implications to him. He sought an evidentiary hearing to prove this. Because Wood failed to develop diligently the factual basis for his Sixth Amendment claim in state court proceedings, the court denied the request for an evidentiary hearing.

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