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Severances, Transferred Intent, and Double Jeopardy

December 22, 2016

Severances, Transferred Intent, and Double Jeopardy

CaseState of Tennessee v. Lajuan Harbison


(1) When should co-defendants have separate trials?

(2) Can transferred intent support a voluntary manslaughter conviction?

(3) Can a person receive multiple convictions for employing a firearm during a single criminal episode?

Facts:  Defendant was convicted of four counts of voluntary manslaughter and four counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. On appeal, Defendant argued that his case should have been severed from a co-defendant, that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, and that the firearm convictions violated double jeopardy.

Appellate Decision:  The intermediate court reversed the convictions on each issue. First, the court held that the co-defendants should have been severed. The co-defendants were apparently in rival gangs, and trying them together “clearly created a hostile atmosphere.” This Defendant’s statements were redacted to remove references to co-defendants over his objections that the entire interview was exculpatory. The co-defendants’ statements were highly prejudicial to him and had a “spillover effect.” All co-defendants are both defendants and victims depending on which count is being addressed. As a result, this Defendant was “clearly prejudiced” from being tried with the others.

Second, Defendant’s conviction for voluntary manslaughter was based on a theory of transferred intent. Evidence showed that the Defendant was provoked by his co-defendants, not the victim, and “Voluntary manslaughter requires that the act of the slayer be the result of provocation instigated by the person slain.”

Third, Defendant should only been convicted of a single count of employing a firearm during a dangerous felony since there was a “single offending act” of employing a firearm notwithstanding the number of guns or bullets.

Review Granted:  December 14, 2016.

Prediction:  Ben thinks the Supreme Court will affirm for each of the reasons identified by the intermediate court.