451 U.S. 430 (1981), 79-6740, Bullington v. Missouri

Docket Nº:No. 79-6740
Citation:451 U.S. 430, 101 S.Ct. 1852, 68 L.Ed.2d 270
Party Name:Bullington v. Missouri
Case Date:May 04, 1981
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 430

451 U.S. 430 (1981)

101 S.Ct. 1852, 68 L.Ed.2d 270

Bullington

v.

Missouri

No. 79-6740

United States Supreme Court

May 4, 1981

Argued January 14, 1981

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF MISSOURI

Syllabus

Missouri law provides only two possible sentences for a defendant convicted of capital murder: (a) death, or (b) life imprisonment without eligibility for probation or parole for 50 years. Under state statutes, a separate presentence hearing, at which additional evidence in mitigation and aggravation of punishment is heard, must be held before the same jury that found the defendant guilty; the prosecution must prove the existence of aggravating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt before the death penalty may be imposed; and a jury that imposes the death penalty must designate in writing the aggravating circumstance or circumstances that it finds beyond a reasonable doubt. The guilt or innocence phase of petitioner's state court trial resulted in a verdict of guilty of capital murder, and his presentence hearing resulted in the jury's additional verdict fixing petitioner's punishment at life imprisonment without eligibility for probation or parole for 50 years. After granting petitioner's post-trial motion for a new trial because of the intervening decision in Duren v. Missouri, 439 U.S. 357, which held that Missouri's allowing automatic exemption of women from jury service was unconstitutional, the trial court announced that it would grant petitioner's motion, based on double jeopardy grounds, to strike the prosecution's notice that it intended again to seek the death penalty on the basis of the same aggravating circumstances it had sought to prove at the first trial. The Missouri Court of Appeals denied the State's request for a writ of prohibition or mandamus, but the Missouri Supreme Court ultimately granted a writ of prohibition.

[101 S.Ct. 1854] Held: Because, under Missouri law, the sentencing proceeding at petitioner's first trial was like the trial on the question of guilt or innocence, the protection afforded by the Double Jeopardy Clause to one acquitted by a jury is available to him, with respect to the death penalty, at his retrial. The reasoning of Stroud v. United States, 251 U.S. 15, is not controlling. Pp. 437-446.

(a) This Court generally has concluded that, because the imposition of a particular sentence usually is not regarded as an "acquittal" of any more severe sentence that could have been imposed, the Double Jeopardy Clause imposes no absolute prohibition against the imposition of a harsher sentence at retrial after a defendant has succeeded in having his original conviction set aside. See North Carolina v. Pearce,

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395 U.S. 711; Chaffin v. Stynchcombe, 412 U.S. 17; Stroud v. United States, supra; United States v. DiFrancesco, 449 U.S. 117. However, in those cases, unlike the present case, the sentencing procedures did not have the hallmarks of a trial on guilt or innocence. In the first three cases, there was no separate sentencing proceeding at which the prosecution was required to prove additional facts in order to justify the particular sentence, and the sentencer's discretion in determining punishment was essentially unfettered. Although United States v. DiFrancesco, supra,. involved a separate sentencing procedure, the prosecution was required to prove an additional fact warranting a harsher penalty only by a preponderance of the evidence, and the sentencer's choice of punishment was far broader than the two choices available to petitioner's jury under Missouri law. Pp. 437-441.

(b) The rationale of Burks v. United States, 437 U.S. 1, which held that a defendant may not be retried if he obtains a reversal of his conviction on the ground that the evidence was insufficient to convict, is relevant here. In the usual sentencing proceeding, it is impossible, because of the absence of sentencing standards, to conclude that a sentence less than the statutory maximum constitutes a decision to the effect that the prosecution has failed to prove its case. But by enacting a capital sentencing procedure that resembles a trial on the issue of guilt or innocence, Missouri explicitly requires the jury to determine whether the prosecution has "proved its case." Petitioner's sentence of life imprisonment at his first trial meant that the jury has already acquitted him of whatever was necessary to impose the death sentence. Pp. 441-446.

594 S.W.2d 908, reversed and remanded.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, STEWART, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 447.

BLACKMUN, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Stroud v. United States, 251 U.S. 15 (1919), concerned a defendant who was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced

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to life imprisonment, and who then obtained, upon confession of error by the Solicitor General, a reversal of his conviction and a new trial. This Court, by a unanimous vote in that case, held that the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment1 did not bar the imposition of the death penalty when Stroud, at his new trial, was again convicted.

The issue in the present case is whether the reasoning of Stroud is also to apply under a system where a jury's sentencing decision is made at a bifurcated proceeding's second stage at which the prosecution has the burden of proving certain elements beyond a reasonable doubt before the death penalty may be imposed.

I

Missouri law provides two, and only two, possible sentences for a defendant convicted of capital murder:2 (a) death, or (b) life imprisonment without eligibility for probation or parole for 50 years. Mo.Rev.Stat. § 565.008.1 (1978).3

Like most death penalty legislation enacted after this Court's decision in Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972),

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the Missouri statutes contain substantive standards to guide the discretion of the sentencer. The statutes also afford procedural safeguards to the convicted defendant. Section 565.006 provides that the trial court shall conduct a separate presentence hearing for the defendant who is convicted by a jury of capital murder.4 The hearing must be held before

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the same jury5 that found the defendant guilty, and "additional evidence in extenuation, mitigation, and aggravation of punishment" shall be heard. "Only such evidence in aggravation as the prosecution has made known to the defendant prior to his trial shall be admissible." The jury must consider whether the evidence shows that there exist any of the 106 aggravating circumstances or the 7 mitigating circumstances [101 S.Ct. 1856] specified by the statute, see §§ 565.012.2 and 565.012.3; whether any other mitigating or aggravating circumstances authorized by law exist; whether any aggravating circumstances that do exist are sufficient to warrant the imposition of the death penalty; and whether any mitigating circumstances that exist outweigh the aggravating circumstances. § 565.012.1. A jury that imposes the death penalty must designate in writing the aggravating circumstance or circumstances that it finds beyond a reasonable doubt. § 565.012.4. It also must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that any aggravating circumstance or circumstances that it finds to exist are sufficient to warrant the imposition of the death penalty. Missouri Approved Instructions -- Criminal (MAI-Cr) § 15.42 (1979). A Missouri jury is instructed that it is not compelled to impose the death

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penalty, even if it decides that a sufficient aggravating circumstance or circumstances exist and that it or they are not outweighed by any mitigating circumstance or circumstances. MAI-Cr. § 15.46. A jury's decision to impose the death penalty must be unanimous. If the jury is unable to agree, the defendant receives the alternative sentence of life imprisonment described above. § 565.006.2; MAI-Cr. § 15.48.

II

In December, 1977, petitioner Robert Bullington was indicted in St. Louis County, Mo., for capital murder and other crimes arising out of the abduction of a young woman and her subsequent death by drowning.7

The Circuit Court of St. Louis County granted petitioner's pretrial motion for a change of venue to Jackson County in the western part of the State. The prosecution, by letter, informed the defense that the State would seek the death penalty if the jury convicted the defendant of capital murder. App. 12. The letter-notice stated that the prosecution would present evidence of two aggravating circumstances specified by the statute: that "[t]he offense was committed by a person . . . who has a substantial history of serious assaultive criminal convictions," § 565.012.2(1), and that "[t]he offense was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture, or depravity of mind," § 565.012.2(7).

At the guilt or innocence phase of petitioner's trial, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of capital murder. App. 21. On the following day, the trial court proceeded to hold the presentence hearing required by § 565.006.2. Evidence submitted by the prosecution was received. None was offered by the defense. After argument by counsel, instructions from the judge, and deliberation, the jury returned its

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additional verdict fixing petitioner's punishment not at death, but at imprisonment for life without eligibility for probation or parole for 50 years. App. 27.

Petitioner then moved, on various grounds, for judgment of acquittal or, in the alternative, for a new trial. While that motion was pending, Duren v. Missouri, 439 U.S. 357 (1979), was decided. In that case, this Court held...

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