State v. Miranda
Vacatur Remedy Extended To Other Cumulative Convictions
Constitutional Law | Criminal Law
- Connecticut Appellate Court
- AC 35089
- Sep 10 2013 (Date Decided)
- Beach, J.
In the 2013 case of State v. Polanco, the Connecticut Supreme Court adopted the vacatur approach when a defendant is convicted of greater and lesser included offenses and left unresolved whether the vacatur approach should apply "to other scenarios in which cumulative convictions violated the double jeopardy clause…" Two decades after Miguel Roman was convicted of murdering Carmen Lopez, a pregnant teenager, an investigation by the Connecticut Innocence Project led to the re-examination of physical evidence with DNA technology and the vacating of his conviction. The investigation led to Pedro Miranda's conviction on charges of capital felony, murder, felony murder and kidnapping in the first degree. Miranda appealed, raising multiple claims. The Appellate Court affirmed and reversed the judgment, in part. The defendant claimed that his cumulative convictions for capital felony, murder and felony murder and the consecutive sentences imposed by the court, violated the constitutional prohibitions against double jeopardy and, under Polanco, his conviction of murder and felony murder had to be vacated. The state agreed that under Polanco, the murder conviction had to be vacated as a lesser included offense of capital felony. The Appellate Court concluded that under Polanco, only one of the three murder convictions could stand and the other two must be vacated. While declining to decide the issue, the Polanco court suggested that the remedy of vacatur should apply to other scenarios in which cumulative convictions violate the double jeopardy clause, finding no reason why, of logical necessity, the holding should be limited to overlapping convictions of greater and lesser included offenses arising out of the same act. Because in the 1990 case of State v. Chicano, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that intentional murder and felony murder of the same person are the same offense for double jeopardy purposes, the vacatur remedy adopted in Polanco was found to apply. The state's arguments against extending vacatur were rejected. Should the principal conviction be reversed, the vacated conviction can be reinstated if the reason for the reversal does not undermine the vacated offense. The imposed sentences clearly indicated that the capital felony conviction controlled and the murder and felony murder sentences were ancillary. Therefore, the murder and felony murder convictions were ordered vacated. Sufficient evidence existed to sustain the kidnapping conviction.