Valentin Trono v. United States

Decision Date04 December 1905
Docket NumberNo. 34,34
Citation4 Ann.Cas. 773,26 S.Ct. 121,199 U.S. 521,50 L.Ed. 292
PartiesVALENTIN TRONO, Maximo Angeles, and Timoteo Natividad, Plffs. in Err. , v. UNITED STATES
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

The plaintiffs in error were proceeded against in the court of first instance of the province of Bulacan, Philippine Islands, upon a complaint accusing them of causing the death of Benito Perez 'with great cruelty and evident premeditation . . . by means of blows given with the butts of guns, they co-operating one with the other.' In other words, the accused were complained of as guilty of murder in the first degree.

They were tried in the court above mentioned, and were acquitted of the crime of murder, and convicted of the crime of assault, which is included in the crime of murder charged in the complaint, and they were therefore sentenced by the court to suffer a penalty of six months' imprisonment, and to pay a certain sum to the heirs of Perez, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.

All three of the accused appealed to the supreme court of the Philippine Islands from the judgment and sentence of the trial court. The supreme court, having heard the case, reversed the judgment of the court of first instance, and convicted the accused of the crime of homicide (in substance, murder in the second degree), which is included in, and is a lower degree of, the crime charged in the complaint, but is a higher degree of crime than that of which the accused were convicted in the court below. Two of them (Angeles and Trono) were sentenced to fourteen years, eight months, and one day, and Natividad to imprisonment for eight years and one day, and all three to the payment of an indemnity to the heirs of the deceased.

The accused have brought the case here by writ of error to the supreme court of the Philippine Islands, for the purpose of reviewing the judgment of that court.

Messrs. Aldis B. Browne, Alexander Britton, and Maurice Kelly for plaintiffs in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 522-525 intentionally omitted] Solicitor General Hoyt for defendant in error.

Statement by Mr. Justice Peckham:

[Argument of Counsel from pages 525-528 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice Peckham, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiffs in error seek a reversal of the judgment in their case on the ground that the supreme court of the Philippine Islands had no power to reverse the judgment of the court of first instance, and then find them guilty of a higher crime than that of which they had been convicted in that court, and of which higher crime that court had acquitted them, and they contend that such a conviction by the supreme court of the islands was a violation of the act of Congress, passed July 1, 1902 (32 Stat. at L. 691, chap. 1369), a portion of the 5th section of that act providing that 'no person for the same offense shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment.'

This language is to be found in connection with other language in the same act, providing for the rights of a person accused of crime in the Philippine Islands. The whole language is substantially taken from the Bill of Rights set forth in the amendments to the Constitution of the United States, omitting the provisions in regard to the right of trial by jury and the right of the people to bear arms, and containing the prohibition of the 13th Amendment, and also prohibiting the passage of bills of attainder and ex post facto laws.

The important question to be determined is whether this action of the supreme court of the islands did violate the act of Congress by placing the accused twice in jeopardy.

The meaning of the phrase, as used in the above-mentioned act of Congress, was before this court in Kepner v. United States, decided in May, 1904 (195 U. S. 100, 49 L. ed. 114, 24 Sup.Ct.Rep. 797), where will be found a very full discussion of the subject. The plaintiff in error in that case had been acquitted of the crime charged against him in the court to first instance, but the government, not being satisfied with the decision, appealed to the supreme court, and that court reversed the judgment of acquittal, and found Kepner guilty of the crime of which the court of first instance had acquitted him, and sentenced him to a term of imprisonment, and suspended him from any public office or public trust, and deprived him of the right of suffrage. This court, upon writ of error, held that, in reversing, upon the appeal of the government, the judgment of the court of first instance, and itself convicting the accused and pronouncing judgment against him, the supreme court of the islands violated the provision in question, and its judgment was therefore reversed and the prisoner discharged. It was also held that the government had no power to obtain a review of a judgment or decision of the trial court acquitting an accused party, and that the phrase in question was to be construed as the same phrase would be construed in the instrument from which it was originally taken, viz., the Constitution of the United States; and that the settled and wellknown meaning of the language, as used in the Constitution, must also be taken when the same language is used in the act of Congress, and not as it might possibly be construed with reference to Spanish law or Spanish procedure.

The difference between that case and the one now before the court is obvious. Here the accused, while acquitted of the greater offense charged in the complaint, were convicted of a lesser offense included in the main charge. They appealed from the judgment of the court of first instance, and the government had no voice in the matter of the sppeal, it simply followed them to the court to which they appealed. We regard that fact as material and controlling. The difference is vital between an attempt by the government to review the verdict or decision of acquittal in the court of first instance and the action of the accused person in himself appealing from the judgment and asking for its reversal, even though that judgment, while convicting him of the lower offense, acquits him of the higher one charged in the complaint.

We may regard the question as thus presented as the same as if it arose in one of the Federal courts in this country, where, upon an indictment for a greater offense, the jury had found the accused not guilty of that offense, but guilty of a lower one which was included in it, and, upon an appeal from that judgment by the accused, a new trial had been granted by the appellate court, and the question was whether, upon the new trial accorded, the accused could be again tried for the greater offense set forth in the indictment, or must the trial be confined to that offense of which the accused had previously been convicted, and which conviction had, upon his own motion, been set aside and reversed by the higher court.

This question has given rise to much diversity of opinion in the various state courts. Many of them have held that the new trial must be confined to the lesser offense of which the accused had been convicted on the first trial, while other courts have held precisely the contrary, and that upon a new trial the whole case was open as if there had been no former trial. Most, if not all, of these two classes of cases have been cited by the respective counsel in this case and will be found in their briefs herein. It would be unprofitable to cite and refer to each of them in detail here. They have been carefully examined.

Those cases which limit the new trial proceed upon the ground, as stated in People v. Dowling, 84 N. Y. 478, 483, by Folger, Chief Judge, as follows:

'The matter at the bottom is the constitutional provision that 'no person shall be subject to be twice put in jeopardy for the same offense' (N. Y. Const. art. 1, par. 6), and yet new trials are granted in criminal cases on the motion of the accused, and, if he gets a new trial, he is thus subject to be twice put in jeopardy. This is done on the ground that, by asking for a correction of errors made on the first trial, he does waive his constitutional protection, and does himself ask for a new trial, though it brings him twice in jeopardy. But that waiver, unless it be expressly of the benefit of the verdict of acquittal, goes no further than the accused himself extends it. His application for a correction of the verdict is not to be taken as more extensive than his needs. He asks a correction of so much of the judgment as convicted him of guilt. He is not to be supposed to ask correction or reversal of so much of it as acquitted him of offense. He, therefore, waives his privilege as to one and keeps it as to the other. It is upon this principle that where, by a verdict of guilty on one count or for one offense, and an acquittal on or for another, there has been a partial conviction on an indictment, and on writ of error there has been a reversal of the conviction, the acquittal still stands good, and is, as to that count or offense, a bar. As to that, the plea of autrefois acquit can be upheld, though the plea of autrefois convict cannot be upheld as to the offense of which the verdict was guilty. The waiver is construed to extend only to the precise thing concerning which the relief is sought.'

But in the subsequent case of People v. Palmer, 109 N. Y. 413, 419, 4 Am. St. Rep. 477, 17 N. E. 213, the effect of the statute of New York known as §§ 464 and 544 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, was under consideration. Those sections enacted as follows:

'Sec. 464. The granting of a new trial places the parties in the same position as if no trial had been had.

'Sec. 544. When a new trial is ordered it shall proceed in all respects as if no trial had been had.'

The statute was held valid, and that it did not violate the constitutional provision against subjecting a person to be twice put in jeopardy for the same offense, as the jeopardy was incurred with...

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