Joe Malloy v. State of South Carolina

Decision Date05 April 1915
Docket NumberNo. 172,172
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Messrs. Charles L. Prince and W. F. Stevenson for plaintiff in error.

Mr. F. H. Dominick and Mr. Thomas H. Peeples, Attorney General of South Carolina, for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice McReynolds delivered the opinion of the court:

At the summer term, 1912, court of general sessions, Marlboro county, South Carolina, Joe Malloy was found guilty without a recommendation to mercy under an indictment charging him with the murder of Moore, November 24, 1910, and sentenced to death by electrocution in conformity to the act of the legislature approved February 17, 1912 (S. C. Stat. at L. 1912, p. 702) the pertinent portions of which are in the margin.1 The judgment was affirmed by the supreme court of the state (95 S. C. 441, 78 S. E. 995); the cause is here by writ of error; and a reversal is asked solely upon the ground that the enactment of 1912 materially changed the punishment for murder, and therefore in respect of Malloy's offense is ex post facto and in contravention of art. 1, § 10, of the Federal Constitution.

Under the South Carolina laws effective when the crime was committed the punishment for one found guilty of murder without recommendation to mercy was death by hanging within the county jail, or its inclosure, in the presence of specified witnesses. The subsequent act prescribed electrocution as the method of producing death instead of hanging, fixed the place therefor within the penitentiary, and permitted the presence of more invited witnesses than had theretofore been allowed.

In response to the meticulous objection based upon change of place for execution and increased number of witnesses it suffices to refer to what this court said through Mr. Justice Harlan in Holden v. Minnesota, 137 U. S. 483, 491, 34 L. ed. 734, 736, 11 Sup. Ct. Rep. 143, and Rooney v. North Dakota, 196 U. S. 319, 325, 326, 49 L. ed. 494, 496, 497, 25 Sup. Ct. Rep. 264, 3 Ann. Cas. 76. The constitutional inhibition of ex post facto laws was intended to secure substantial personal rights against arbitrary and oppressive legislative action, and not to obstruct mere alteration in conditions deemed necessary for the orderly infliction of humane punishment.

The contention in behalf of plaintiff in error most earnestly relied on is this: Any statute enacted subsequent to the commission of a crime which undertakes to change the punishment therefor is ex post facto and unconstitutional unless it distinctly modifies the severity of the former penalty. 'The courts cannot and will not undertake to say whether or not a change from hanging to electrocution is an increase or mitigation of punishment;' and therefore the act of 1912 cannot apply in the circumstances presented here. Hartung v. People, 22 N. Y. 95.

The often-quoted opinion of Mr. Justice Chase in Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386, 390, 391, 1 L. ed. 648, 650, summarizes ex post facto laws within the intendment of the Constitution thus: '1st. Every law that makes an action done before the passing of the law, and which was innocent when done criminal, and punishes such action. 2d. Every law that aggravates a crime, or makes it greater than it was when committed. 3d. Every law that changes the punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment than the law annexed to the crime when committed. 4th. Every law that alters the legal of evidence, and receives less, or different, testimony, than the law required at the time of the commission of the offense, in order to convict the offender. All these, and similar laws, are manifestly unjust and oppressive.' Further expounding the subject, he adds: 'But I do not consider any law ex post facto, within the prohibition, that mollifies the rigor of the criminal law; but only those that create, or aggravate, the crime; or increase the punishment, or change the rules of evidence, for the purpose of conviction.' And to the general doctrine thus announced this court has continued to adhere.

In Mallett v. North Carolina, 181 U. S. 589, 597, 45 L. ed. 1015, 1019, 21 Sup. Ct. Rep. 730, 15 Am. Crim. Rep. 241, Mr. Justice Shiras, speaking for the court, after reviewing former opinions, applied the established principles and concluded that the impeached legislation was not ex post facto, since it 'did not make that a criminal act which was innocent when done; did not aggravate an offense or change the punishment and make it greater than when it was committed; did not alter the rules of evidence, and require less or different evidence than the law required at the time of the commission of the offense; and did not deprive the accused of any substantial right or immunity possessed by them at the time of the...

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133 cases
  • DeShields v. State
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Delaware
    • May 27, 1987
    ...provides an optional method of death is not ex post facto legislation or an unlawful bill of attainder. Malloy v. South Carolina, 237 U.S. 180, 35 S.Ct. 507, 59 L.Ed. 905 (1915); State v. Fitzpatrick, Mont.Supr., 684 P.2d 1112 (1984).8 See 11 Del.C. § 3909(a) (1953); Rev.Code § 5329 (1935);......
  • Blackmon v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • August 5, 2005 15-18-82.1(d): "The provisions of the opinion and all points of law decided by the United States Supreme Court in Malloy v. South Carolina, 237 U.S. 180 (1915), finding that the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution is not violated by a legislatively enacted change in th......
  • Kolkman v. People
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • May 11, 1931
    ... ... the land and the statutes of the State of Colorado will be ... We have ... held that, unless the bill ... oppressive legislation, see Malloy v. South Carolina, 237 ... U.S. 180, 183, 35 S.Ct. 507, 59 L.Ed. 905, and ... ...
  • Commonwealth v. Story
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • December 28, 1981
    ... ... Cal.Rptr. 633, 588 P.2d 773 (1979), Idaho, State v ... Lindquist, 99 Idaho 766, 589 P.2d 101 (1979), Illinois, ... Collins, 370 So.2d 533 (La., ... 1979), and South Carolina, State v. Rodgers, 270 S.C. 285, ... 242 S.E.2d 215 (1978), have ... Id. 432 U.S. at ... 293, 97 S.Ct. at 2298 citing Malloy v. South ... Carolina, 237 U.S. 180, 35 S.Ct. 507, 59 L.Ed. 905 ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • A Needle in the Haystack: Finding a Solution to Ohio's Lethal Injection Problems
    • United States
    • Capital University Law Review No. 38-3, May 2010
    • May 1, 2010
    ...789, 791 (2008). 125 See id. at 790–91 (2008). 126 Baze v. Rees, 128 S. Ct. 1520, 1526 (2008). 127 Id . (quoting Malloy v. South Carolina, 237 U.S. 180, 185 (1915)). 128 See BANNER, supra note 120, at 184; Dieter, supra note 124, at 791–92; Denno, supra note 42, at 62. 129 CRAIG BRANDON, TH......
  • It's an ex post facto fact: Supreme Court misapplies the ex post facto clause to criminal procedure.
    • United States
    • Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 91 No. 2, January 2001
    • January 1, 2001
    ...The Court cited Lynce v. Mathis, 519 U.S. 433, 441 (1997); Dobbert v. Florida, 432 U.S. 282, 293 (1977); Malloy v. South Carolina, 237 U.S. 180, 18384 (1915); Mallett v. North Carolina, 181 U.S. 589, 593-94 (1901); Thompson v. Missouri, 171 U.S. 380, 382 (1898); Hawker v. New York, 170 U.S.......
  • Adam J. Kolber, the Experiential Future of the Law
    • United States
    • Emory University School of Law Emory Law Journal No. 60-3, 2011
    • Invalid date
    ...196 State v. Frampton, 627 P.2d 922, 934 (Wash. 1981); see also Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35, 41 (2008). 197 Malloy v. South Carolina, 237 U.S. 180, 185 (1915). 198 Baze, 553 U.S. at 42-44. 199 Deborah W. Denno, Introduction, 35 FORDHAM URB. L.J. 701, 702 (2008) (introducing the Fordham Urban ......
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