State v. Thomas
The Supreme Court's central holding in the 2010 case of State v. Thomas was that jeopardy did not attach to the trial court's conditional acceptance of the defendant's plea pursuant to a plea agreement. In connection with having intercourse with a 15-year-old when he was 47-years-old, Dereck Thomas pleaded guilty to sexual assault in the second degree and risk of injury to a child, pursuant to a court-recommended plea agreement. The court explained that it would "likely impose" the sentence of five years imprisonment suspended after one year with 10 years of probation, "but that the victim's position may affect the court…." The court accepted the plea, ordered a presentence investigation and continued the matter for sentencing. The presentence investigation report revealed new information including that the defendant had provided the victim with alcohol, that the victim had attempted suicide and engaged in self-mutilation following the assaults. After hearing from the victim, the court declined to impose the contemplated sentence, vacated the plea, noted pro forma pleas of not guilty and placed the matter back on the trial list. The Supreme Court heard the defendant's interlocutory appeal and rejected his claim that once the court accepted the guilty plea, it was bound to enforce the agreement. On remand, the defendant entered a conditional plea of nolo contendere to the same charges and received a total effective sentence of 10 years imprisonment, execution suspended after 16 months with 10 years of probation. The defendant appealed claiming that the court violated his rights to due process and protection against double jeopardy. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The doctrine of res judicata precluded the defendant's claim that the trial court violated his right against double jeopardy by improperly failing to sentence him in accordance with the original plea agreement, vacating his accepted plea and failing to follow the mandatory provisions of the rules of practice. The Supreme Court did not limit its holding, as the defendant claimed, to a determination that the mere acceptance of the plea did not trigger double jeopardy protection. To the extent that the defendant raised an additional nuance of double jeopardy law, it could have been raised in the prior appeal. The doctrine of collateral estoppel precluded the due process claims. The issues raised were fully and fairly litigated in the prior appeal.