Court: Multiple murder convictions for 1 killing not legal

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Connecticut Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a longtime practice that allowed multiple murder convictions for one killing.

Justices ruled 7-0 that the practice violated constitutional protections against double jeopardy, which prohibit multiple punishments for a single crime.

The decision came in the case of Pedro Miranda, a Hartford man sentenced to life in prison plus an extra 100 years in 2011 for killing a teenager in 1988. A jury convicted him of capital felony, murder and felony murder. Prosecutors say he also killed two other teenagers in the 1980s.

The Supreme Court ordered Miranda’s murder and felony murder convictions to be vacated. But the justices set new rules that would allow those convictions to be reinstated if the capital felony conviction is overturned on appeal, which would prevent Miranda from escaping punishment entirely for the killing if he succeeds on appeal.

The ruling upheld a decision by the state Appellate Court.

The case involved the beating, rape and strangling of 17-year-old Carmen Lopez, who was seven months pregnant. The fetus didn’t survive. Lopez’s boyfriend, Miguel Roman, was wrongfully convicted of the killing and served 20 years of a 60-year prison sentence before being freed in December 2008.

Miranda is serving another life prison sentence for killing 13-year-old Mayra Cruz. Prosecutors believe he also murdered 16-year-old Rosa Valentin in 1986, but they dropped the third murder charge citing problems with evidence. Miranda has consistently denied that he killed the three teens.

Prosecutor Melissa Streeto said the Supreme Court’s ruling won’t affect the practice of charging defendants with multiple murder counts for one killing or juries returning multiple murder convictions for one killing.

Streeto said judges will now vacate all but one murder conviction. She said prosecutors are pleased the Supreme Court created a safeguard that allows vacated murder convictions to be reinstated if the main murder charge is overturned on appeal.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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