Hoag v. State of New Jersey

Citation78 S.Ct. 829,356 U.S. 464,2 L.Ed.2d 913
Decision Date19 May 1958
Docket NumberNo. 40,40
PartiesWilliam HOAG, Petitioner, v. The STATE OF NEW JERSEY
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. Robert E. Knowlton, Camden, for the petitioner.

Mr. David D. Furman, Trenton, for the respondent.

Mr. Justice HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case we are asked to set aside, under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, a state conviction secured under somewhat unusual circumstances.

On June 26, 1951, a Bergen County, New Jersey, grand jury returned three indictments against the petitioner charging that on September 20, 1950, in concert with two others, he robbed three individuals, Cascio, Capezzuto and Galiardo, at Gay's Tavern in Fairview, New Jersey. These indictments were joined for trial. The State called five witnesses: the three victims named in the indictment, and two other persons, Dottino and Yager. Dottino and Yager were also victims of the robbery, but they were not named in the indictment. All the witnesses, after stating that they were in Gay's Tavern on September 20, testified to the elements of a robbery as defined in the New Jersey statute:1 that they were put in fear and that property was taken from their persons. The petitioner, who claimed that he was not at the tavern on the fateful day and testified to an alibi, was the sole witness for the defense. Although Galiardo and Dottino had both identified petitioner from a photograph during the police investigation, only one of the witnesses, Yager, identified him at the trial as one of the robbers. On May 27, 1952, the jury acquitted the petitioner on all three indictments.

Subsequently, on July 17, 1952, another Bergen County grand jury returned a fourth indictment against petitioner, which was the same as the first three in all respects except that it named Yager as the victim of the robbery at Gay's Tavern. At the trial upon this indictment the State called only Yager as a witness, and he repeated his earlier testimony identifying petitioner. The defense called Cascio, Capezzuto, Galiardo and Dottino, and they each once again testified either that petitioner was not one of the robbers or that a positive identification was not possible. Petitioner repeated his alibi. This time the jury returned a verdict of guilty. The conviction was sustained on appeal in both the Superior Court of New Jersey, 35 N.J.Super. 555, 114 A.2d 573, and the Supreme Court of New Jersey, 21 N.J. 496, 122 A.2d 628. We granted certiorari to consider petitioner's claim, timely raised below, that he was deprived of due process. 352 U.S. 907, 77 S.Ct. 150, 1 L.Ed.2d 116.

Petitioner contends that the second prosecution growing out of the Gay's Tavern robberies infringed safeguards of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment which are 'implicit in the concept of ordered liberty' and that these safeguards as such are carried over under the Fourteenth Amendment as restrictions on the States. Palko v. State of Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319, 325, 58 S.Ct. 149, 152, 82 L.Ed. 288. More particularly, it is said that petitioner's trial for the robbery of Yager, following his previous acquittal on charges of robbing Cascio, Capezzuto, and Galiardo, amounted to trying him again on the same charges. However, in the circumstances shown by this record, we cannot say that petitioner's later prosecution and conviction violated due process.

At the outset it should be made clear that petitioner has not been twice put in jeopardy for the same crime. The New Jersey courts, in rejecting his claim that conviction for robbing Yager violated the Double Jeopardy Clause of the State Constitution,2 have construed the New Jersey statute as making each of the four robberies, though taking place on the same occasion, a separate offense. This construction was consistent with the usual New Jersey rule that double jeopardy does not apply unless the same evidence necessary to sustain a second indictment would have been sufficient to secure a conviction on the first. See State v. Di Giosia, 3 N.J. 413, 419, 70 A.2d 756, 759; State v. Labato, 7 N.J. 137, 144, 80 A.2d 617, 620. Certainly nothing in the Due Process Clause prevented the State from making that construction.

But even if it was constitutionally permissible for New Jersey to punish petitioner for each of the four robberies as separate offenses, it does not necessarily follow that the State was free to prosecute him for each robbery at a different trial. The question is whether this case involved an attempt 'to wear the accused out by a multitude of cases with accumulated trials.' Palko v. State of Connecticut, supra, 302 U.S. at page 328, 58 S.Ct. at page 153. 3

We do not think that the Fourteenth Amendment always forbids States to prosecute different offenses at consecutive trials even though they arise out of the same occurrence. The question in any given case is whether such a course has led to fundamental unfairness. Of course, it may very well be preferable practice for a State in circumstances such as these normally to try the several offenses in a single prosecution, and recent studies of the American Law Institute have led to such a proposal. See Model Penal Code § 1.08(2) (Tent.Draft.No.5, 1956).4 But it would be an entirely different matter for us to hold that the Fourteenth Amendment always prevents a State from allowing different offenses arising out of the same act or transaction to be prosecuted separately, as New Jersey has done.5 For it has long been recognized as the very essence of our federalism that the States should have the widest latitude in the administration of their own systems of criminal justice. See Hurtado v. State of People of California, 110 U.S. 516, 4 S.Ct. 111, 292, 28 L.Ed. 232; Maxwell v. Dow, 176 U.S. 581, 20 S.Ct. 494, 44 L.Ed. 597; West v. State of Louisiana, 194 U.S. 258, 24 S.Ct. 650, 48 L.Ed. 965; Twining v. State of New Jersey, 211 U.S. 78, 29 S.Ct. 14, 53 L.Ed. 97. In the last analysis, a determination whether an impermissible use of multiple trials has taken place cannot be based on any overall formula. Here, as elsewhere, 'The pattern of due process is picked out in the facts and circumstances of each case.' Brock v. State of North Carolina, 344 U.S. 424, 427—428, 73 S.Ct. 349, 350—351, 97 L.Ed. 456. And thus, without speculating as to hypothetical situations in which the Fourteenth Amendment might prohibit consecutive prosecutions of multiple offenses, we reach the conclusion that the petitioner in this case was not deprived of due process.

In Brock v. State of North Carolina, supra, this Court upheld a state conviction against a somewhat similar claim of denial of due process. In Brock two of the State's key witnesses had previously been tried and convicted of crimes arising out of the same transaction which formed the basis of the charge against the petitioner. Before judgments were entered on their convictions they were called by the State of testify at petitioner's trial. Because of their intention to appeal their convictions and the likelihood of a new trial in the event of reversal, the two witnesses declined to testify at petitioner's trial on the ground that their answers might be self-incriminatory. At this point the States was granted a mistrial upon its representation that the evidence of the two witnesses was necessary to its case and that it intended to procure their testimony at a new trial of the petitioner. This Court held that a second trial of the petitioner did not violate due process.

Remembering that the Yager robbery constituted a separate offense from the robberies of the other victims, we find no basis for a constitutional distinction between the circumstances which led to the retrial in Brock and those surrounding the subsequent indictment and trial in the present case. It is a fair inference from the record before us that the indictment and trial on the charge of robbing Yager resulted from the unexpected failure of four of the State's witnesses at the earlier trial to identify petitioner, after two of these witnesses had previously identified him in the course of the police investigation. Indeed, after the second of the two witnesses failed to identify petitioner, the State pleaded surprise and attempted to impeach his testimony. We cannot say that, after such an unexpected turn of events, the State's decision to try petitioner for the Yager robbery was so arbitrary or lacking in justification that it amounted to a denial of those concepts constituting "the very essence of a scheme of ordered justice,' which is due process.' Brock v. State of North Carolina, supra, 344 U.S. at page 428, 73 S.Ct. at page 351. Thus, whatever limits may confine the right of a State to institute separate trials for concededly different criminal offenses, it is plain to us that these limits have not been transgressed in this case.

Petitioner further contends that his conviction was constitutionally barred by 'collateral estoppel.' His position is that because the sole disputed issue in the earlier trial related to his identification as a participant in the Gay's Tavern robberies, the verdict of acquittal there must necessarily be taken as having resolved that issue in his favor. The doctrine of collateral estoppel, so the argument runs, is grounded in considerations of basic fairness to litigants, and thus for a State to decline to apply the rule in favor of a criminal defendant deprives him of due process. Accordingly, it is claimed that New Jersey could not relitigate the issue of petitioner's 'identity,' and is thus precluded from convicting him of robbing Yager.

A common statement of the rule of collateral estoppel is that 'where a question of fact essential to the judgment is actually litigated and determined by a valid and final judgment, the determination is conclusive between the parties in a subsequent action on a different cause of action.' Restatement, Judgments, § 68(1). As an...

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