430 U.S. 564 (1977), 76-120, United States v. Martin Linen Supply Co.

Docket Nº:No. 76-120
Citation:430 U.S. 564, 97 S.Ct. 1349, 51 L.Ed.2d 642
Party Name:United States v. Martin Linen Supply Co.
Case Date:April 04, 1977
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 564

430 U.S. 564 (1977)

97 S.Ct. 1349, 51 L.Ed.2d 642

United States

v.

Martin Linen Supply Co.

No. 76-120

United States Supreme Court

April 4, 1977

Argued February 23, 1977

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

After a deadlocked jury was discharged when unable to agree upon a verdict at the criminal contempt trial of respondent corporations, the District Judge granted respondents' timely motions for judgments of acquittal under Fed.Rule Crim.Proc. 29(c), which provides that "a motion for judgment of acquittal may be made . . . within 7 days after the jury is discharged [and] the court may enter judgment of acquittal. . . ." The Government appealed pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3731, which allows an [97 S.Ct. 1351] appeal by the United States in a criminal case

to a court of appeals from a . . . judgment . . . of a district court dismissing an indictment . . . except that no appeal shall lie where the double jeopardy clause of the United States Constitution prohibits further prosecution.

The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal.

Held: The Double Jeopardy Clause bars appellate review and retrial following a judgment of acquittal entered under Rule 29(c). Pp. 568-576.

(a) The "controlling constitutional principle" of the Double Jeopardy Clause focuses on prohibitions against multiple trials, United States v. Wilson, 420 U.S. 332, 346, and where an appeal by the Government presents no threat of successive prosecutions, the Clause is not offended. Pp. 568-570.

(b) The normal policy granting the Government the right to retry a defendant after a mistrial that does not determine the outcome of a trial does not apply here, since valid judgments of acquittal were entered on the express authority of, and in strict compliance with, Rule 29(c), and a successful governmental appeal reversing the judgments of acquittal would necessitate another trial or further proceedings to resolve factual issues going to the elements of the offense charged. Pp. 570-571.

(c) The judgments of acquittal here were "acquittals" in substance as well as form, since the District Court plainly granted the Rule 29(c) motion on the express view that the Government had not proved facts constituting criminal contempt. Pp. 571-572.

(d) Rule 29 recognizes no legal distinction between judge and jury with respect to the invocation of the protections of the Double Jeopardy Clause. P. 573.

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(e) Rule 29 contemplated no artificial distinctions between situations where the judge enters a judgment of acquittal prior to submission of the case to the jury under Rule 29(a), or after submission but prior to the jury's return of a verdict under Rule 29(b), and the jury is thereafter discharged, and the situation involved here, where the judge chose to await the outcome of the jury's deliberations and, upon its failure to reach a verdict, acted on a timely motion for acquittal after the jury's discharge. United States v. Sanford, 429 U.S. 14, distinguished. Pp. 573-575.

534 F.2d 585, affirmed.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 576. BURGER, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 581. REHNQUIST, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

BRENNAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

A "hopelessly deadlocked" jury was discharged when unable to agree upon a verdict at the criminal contempt trial of respondent corporations in the District Court for the Western District of Texas.1 Federal Rule Crim.Proc. 29(c) provides

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that, in such case,

a motion for judgment of acquittal may be made . . . within 7 days after the jury is discharged [and] the court may enter judgment of acquittal. . . .2

Timely motions for judgments of acquittal under the Rule made [97 S.Ct. 1352] by respondents six days after the discharge of the jury resulted two months later in the entry by the District Court of judgments of acquittal.3 The sole question presented for our

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decision is whether these judgments of acquittal under Rule 29(c) are appealable by the United States pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3731. Section 3731 provides that an appeal by the United States in a criminal case

shall lie to a court of appeals from a . . . judgment . . . of a district court dismissing an indictment . . except that no appeal shall lie where the double jeopardy clause of the United States Constitution prohibits further prosecution.4

The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that no appeal lay under § 3731 from the judgments of acquittal entered by the District Court under Rule 29(c). 534 F.2d 585 (1976). The Court of Appeals reasoned that, since reversal of the acquittals would enable the United States to try respondents a second time, the bar of the Double Jeopardy Clause "leads inescapably to the conclusion that no appeal lies from the directed verdict ordered by the court below." Id. at 589.5 We granted certiorari. 429 U.S. 917 (1976). We affirm.

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I

It has long been established that the United States cannot appeal in a criminal case without express congressional authorization. United States v. Wilson, 420 U.S. 332, 336 (1975); United States v. Sanges, 144 U.S. 310 (1892). [97 S.Ct. 1353] Only two Terms ago, Wilson traced the uneven course of such statutory authority until 1970, when Congress amended the Criminal Appeals Act, 420 U.S. at 336-339, and that history need not be repeated here. See also United States v. Sisson, 399 U.S. 267, 307-308 (1970). It suffices for present purposes that this Court, in Wilson, found that, in enacting § 3731 as Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1970, 84 Stat. 1890,

Congress intended to remove all statutory barriers to Government appeals, and to allow appeals whenever the Constitution would permit.

420 U.S. at 337. Therefore, unless barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution, appeals by the Government from the judgments of acquittal entered by the District Court under Rule 29(c) are authorized by § 3731.

Consideration of the reach of the constitutional limitations inhibiting governmental appeals was largely unnecessary during the prior regime of statutory restrictions. But see Fong Foo v. United States, 369 U.S. 141 (1962); Kepner v. United States, 195 U.S. 100 (1904). However, now that Congress has removed the statutory limitations to appeal and the relevant inquiry turns on the reach of the Double Jeopardy Clause itself, it has become

necessary to take a closer look at the policies underlying the Clause in order to determine more precisely the boundaries of the Government's appeal rights in criminal cases.

United States v. Wilson, supra at 339. In the few cases decided since 1970 that have taken this "closer look," many of the policies shaping restrictions on governmental appeal rights have been brought into sharper focus.

The development of the Double Jeopardy Clause from its

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common law origins. . . . suggests that it was directed at the threat of multiple prosecutions, not at Government appeals, at least where those appeals would not require a new trial.

Id. at 342. Thus, Wilson held that the "controlling constitutional principle" focuses on prohibitions against multiple trials. Id. at 346. At the heart of this policy is the concern that permitting the sovereign freely to subject the citizen to a second trial for the same offense would arm Government with a potent instrument of oppression. The Clause, therefore, guarantees that the State shall not be permitted to make repeated attempts to convict the accused,

thereby subjecting him to embarrassment, expense and ordeal and compelling him to live in a continuing state of anxiety and insecurity, as well as enhancing the possibility that, even though innocent, he may be found guilty.

Green v. United States, 355 U.S. 184, 187-188 (1957); see also Downum v. United States, 372 U.S. 734, 736 (1963).

[S]ociety's awareness of the heavy personal strain which a criminal trial represents for the individual defendant is manifested in the willingness to limit the Government to a single criminal proceeding to vindicate its very vital interest in enforcement of criminal laws.

United States v. Jorn, 400 U.S. 470, 479 (1971) (Harlan, J.).6

In animating this prohibition against multiple prosecutions, the Double Jeopardy Clause rests upon two threshold conditions. The protections afforded by the Clause are implicated only when the accused has actually been placed in jeopardy. Serfass v. United States, 420 U.S. 377 (1975). This state of jeopardy attaches when a jury is empaneled and sworn, or, in a bench trial, when the judge begins to receive evidence. Illinois v. Somerville, 410 U.S. 458, 471 (1973) [97 S.Ct. 1354] (WHITE, J., dissenting); Downum v. United States, supra. Further, where

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a Government appeal presents no threat of successive prosecutions, the Double Jeopardy Clause is not offended. Thus, a post-verdict dismissal of an indictment after a jury rendered a guilty verdict has been held to be appealable by the United States because restoration of the guilty verdict, and not a new trial, would necessarily result if the Government prevailed. United States v. Wilson, supra.7

II

None of the considerations favoring appealability is present in the case of a Government appeal from the District Court's judgments of acquittal under Rule 29(c) where the jury failed to agree on a verdict. The normal policy granting the Government the right to retry a defendant after a mistrial that does not determine the...

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