State v. Lee

Decision Date01 December 1894
Citation30 A. 1110,65 Conn. 265
PartiesSTATE v. LEE.
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

D. J. E. Lee, Indicted for murder in the second degree, was acquitted, and the state appeals. New trial granted.

Levi N. Blydenburgh, for the State.

Joseph P. Goodrich and Arthur C. Graves, for appellee.

HAMERSLEY, J. The defendant was in dieted for the crime of murder in the second degree, was acquitted upon the trial to the jury, and this is an appeal by the state, in the nature of a motion for a new trial on the ground of alleged errors in the charge of the court, and in the admission and exclusion of evidence.

The defendant makes a preliminary claim that the state has, under our law, no right of appeal to this court when the accused has been acquitted by a jury, and bases his claim upon two propositions: (1) A law authorizing procedure for the correction of errors in instructions to the jury, or in the admission and exclusion of evidence, made by the court in a criminal trial, and followed by an acquittal of the accused, is in violation of that fundamental principle of the common law, "No person shall be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy." (2) Section 1637 of the General Statutes does not, in express terms, authorize an appeal when the accused has been tried and acquitted by the jury.

1. "That no one shall be put in jeopardy twice for the same offense is a universal maxim, thought worthy to be incorporated, to a certain extent, into the constitution of the United States; and that an acquittal or conviction by a court having jurisdiction, on a sufficient Indictment or Information, is in all cases a bar, is equally clear." State v. Benham, 7 Conn. 418. This maxim is based upon a principle common to all systems of jurisprudence, 1. e. the finality of judicial proceedings. Broom, Leg. Max. p. 312. If questions once tried and determined could be again agitated, at the option of the parties, one main object of any administration of justice would be defeated. The function of courts is to settle controversies according to law. The object of settlement is secured by the principle of finality of judgments. "Finis finem litibus imponit." The object of settlement in accordance with law, the same in all cases, is secured by the correction of errors in the application of law in each case. Neither object is inconsistent with the other. The end is not reached, the cause is not finished, until both the facts, and the law applicable to the facts, are finally determined. The principle of finality is essential; but not more essential than the principle of justice. V final settlement is not more vital than a right settlement. The adjustment of those principles in the establishment of procedure by means of which the final judgment shall not only settle the controversy, but settle it in accordance with law, is determined in each jurisdiction by considerations of public policy, and not by fundamental principles of jurisprudence. The principle, "Nemo his vexari eadem causa," gives protection against a second judicial proceeding, and, in the event of such proceeding, gives to a party the right, in criminal cases, to the plea of autrefois acquit or autrefois convict and in civil causes to the plea of res judicata; but the principle does not control the question whether the judgment pleaded in bar is in fact a legal and final judgment, and has no legitimate relation to the question whether existing procedure provides for correction of errors occurring in the trial.

This distinction has been lost sight of in some cases which discuss the application of common-law rules or statutory provisions to the correction of errors in criminal causes; and, owing to the confusion of principle with practice, a theory scorns to have at times prevailed which assumes that the punishment of crime is a sort of invasion of natural right, and that a person accused of crime should be exempt from established rules of law binding on all other citizens; and therefore a procedure which proves incompetent to the correct application of legal principles in criminal trials can be changed, like any other rule of practice, when the change may tend to protect an accused from unjust punishment, but becomes a fundamental principle of jurisprudence, that cannot be altered, when the change may tend to secure his just punishment. It needs no argument to dispel such an illusion, or to demonstrate that the natural rights of the individual, as well as the interests of public order, are best served, and the essential principles of jurisprudence are most accurately followed, when the proceedings in a criminal prosecution include such protection against injustice that the final disposition of the cause will not only settle the controversy, but settle it in accordance with law. Judicious legislation for securing a full, fair, legal trial of each criminal cause is not in derogation, but in protection, of individual right, and is in full accord with the principle that no man shall twice be put in jeopardy for the same offense. That maxim, as we have seen, is based on the truth that a judicial proceeding lawfully carried on to its conclusion by a final judgment puts the seal of finality on the controversies determined by that judgment, and is not based on a theory that a person accused of crime has any natural right of exemption from those regulations of a judicial proceeding which the state deems necessary to make sure that the conduct and final result of that proceeding shall be in accordance with law. And so the "putting in jeopardy" means a jeopardy which is real, and has continued through every stage of one prosecution, as fixed by existing laws relating to procedure. While such prosecution remains undetermined, the one jeopardy has not been exhausted. The jeopardy is not exhausted by an indictment followed by a nolle; nor by a nolle after the trial has commenced, when the prisoner does not claim a verdict. 2 Swift, Dig. 402; State v. Garvey, 42 Conn. 233. Nor by the discharge of a jury in case of the sickness of a judge (Nugent v. State, 4 Stew. & P. 72); the sickness of a juror (Rex v. Scalbert, 2 Leach, 020: Rex v. Edwards, 3 Camp. 207; Com. v. Merrill, Thacher, Crim. Cas. 1); the sickness of the prisoner (Rex v. Stevenson, 2 Leach, 5-16; Rex v. Streek, 2 Car. & P. 413; State v. McKee, 1 Bailey, 651); in the case of the expiration of the term of court during the progress of the trial (Reg. v. Newton, 3 Cox, Cr. Cas. 489; State v. McLemore, 2 Hill [S. C] 680); in case of the inability of the jury to agree (State v. Woodruff, 2 Day, 504; Reg. v. Charlesworth, 1 Best & S. 460; Reg. v. Davison, 2 Post. & P. 252; People v. Olcott, 2 Johns. Cas. 301; Com. v. Bowden, 9 Mass. 494; Hoffman v. State, 20 Md. 425; Hurley v. State, 6 Ohio, 399; U. S. v. Perez, 9 Wheat 579); in case of influence exerted on the jury, against the prosecution, by an officer in charge of the jury (State v. Wiseman, 68 N. C. 203); in case of misconduct or incapacity of a juror (U. S. v. Morris, 1 Curt. 23, Fed. Cas. No. 15,815; People v. Damon, 13 Wend. 351; Stone v. People, 2 Scam. 326; Dilworth v. Com., 12 Grat. 689; Reg. v. Ward, 10 Cox, Cr. Cas. 573); even after the case has been committed to the jury (State v. Tuller, 34 Conn. 294); and when the prisoner offers to waive the disqualification of a juror who has expressed an opinion against him, and protests against the discharge of the jury (State v. Allen, 46 Conn. 531). Nor is it exhausted by an acquittal when the verdict has been obtained through the fraud of the accused. Chit. Cr. Law, p. 657; State v. Reed, 26 Conn. 208.

The great significance of these cases lies in their illustration of the inherent power and duty of the court to see that the trial is conducted according to law, even if the impaneling of new juries and new trials are involved. The same underlying principle of justice which demands a retrial because a juror is legally disqualified calls for a retrial when illegal evidence has been admitted or legal evidence excluded. In either case the trial is tainted, and should not support a valid final judgment Before the verdict is returned, the trial court, of its own motion, can award a retrial. After the verdict is returned, a retrial is awarded only on further proceedings in the cause, which may or may not be authorized by the law regulating procedure. If such further proceedings are not authorized by law, the cause is ended, and the one jeopardy of the accused is exhausted; but this results, not from any special sanctity attributable to a verdict tainted with illegality, but solely from the fact that the state, influenced by considerations of public policy, has decided to make such verdict, whether just or unjust, the end of that controversy. But when the state sees fit to provide that the cause shall not necessarily be so ended, but that further proceedings, on motion of the accused, may be had, an unjust verdict resumes its normal position of a legal nullity; and when the state provides for like proceedings on the motion of the prosecutor a similar result must follow. The rule as formulated by this court in State v. Garvey, supra, rests upon solid foundations. "The principle which protects an individual from the jeopardy involved in a second trial for the same offense is well established, and fully recognized. The question, however, as to what constitutes a trial, depends upon the course of procedure of the particular jurisdiction in which it is had, and the construction of the courts there with respect to it."

The power and duty of the state to extend to criminal trials those methods of procedure which are found essential to that pure and impartial administration of justice to which every one, both as an individual and as a member of the body politic, when the state itself appears as a party to the trial, is entitled by virtue of a principle which lies at the root of our jurisprudence, would never have been...

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64 cases
  • Green v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • 16 Diciembre 1957
    ...for the greater offense: Colorado.—See Young v. People, 54 Colo. 293, 298—307, 130 P. 1011. Connecticut.—See State v. Lee, 65 Conn. 265, 271—278, 30 A. 1110, 27 L.R.A. 498; State v. Palko, 122 Conn. 529, 538—539, 541, 191 A. 320, 113 A.L.R. 628, affirmed 302 U.S. 319, 58 S.Ct. 149, 82 L.Ed.......
  • State v. Michael J.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • 5 Julio 2005
    ...character of that statute and its interrelationship with Connecticut common law is illustrated by the landmark case of State v. Lee, 65 Conn. 265, 30 A. 1110 (1894). In Lee, the defendant, J. Edward Lee, had been indicted and tried for murder, but was found not guilty by a jury. Id., at 271......
  • State v. Ledbetter
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • 15 Abril 1997
    ...common-law rule against it as necessary to the due process guaranteed by article first, § 9, of our constitution. See State v. Lee, 65 Conn. 265, 271, 30 A. 1110 [1894]; State v. Carabetta, 106 Conn. 114, 117, 137 A. 394 [1927]; State v. Holloway, 144 Conn. 295, 298, 130 A.2d 562 [1957]." K......
  • Stout v. State ex rel. Caldwell
    • United States
    • Oklahoma Supreme Court
    • 11 Febrero 1913
    ...of the common law that no person shall be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy. State v. Lee, 65 Conn. 265, 30 A. 1110, 27 L.R.A. 498, 48 Am. St. Rep. 202. ¶17 These various constitutional provisions apparently are treated by the courts as meaning the same thing; the dif......
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2 books & journal articles
  • "incorporation" of the Criminal Procedure Amendments: the View from the States
    • United States
    • University of Nebraska - Lincoln Nebraska Law Review No. 84, 2021
    • Invalid date
    ...rule against it as necessary to the due process guaranteed by article first, § 9, of [the Connecticut] constitution" (citing State v. Lee, 30 A. 1110 (Conn. 1894))), cert. denied, 371 U.S. 928 (1962); accord State v. Laws, 655 A.2d 1131, 1139 (Conn. App. Ct. 1995), cert. denied, 659 A.2d 12......
  • Developments in Connecticut Criminal Law: 2005
    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 80, 2005
    • Invalid date
    ...Id. at 594-95.). 83 Id. at 351. Justice Zarella traces Connecticut's long-standing minority view of double jeopardy law to State v. Lee, 65 Conn. 265 (1894). The Lee court's theory of continuing jeopardy "stood in direct contrast to federal constitutional jurisprudence as espoused by the Un......

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