LOCATION: 1980 Democratic National Convention, Madison Square Garden
DOCKET NO.: 79-6740
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Missouri
CITATION: 451 US 430 (1981)
ARGUED: Jan 14, 1981
DECIDED: May 04, 1981
James Cook - on behalf of the Respondent
Richard H. Sindel - on behalf of the Petitioner
Facts of the case
Media for Bullington v. Missouri
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 14, 1981 in Bullington v. Missouri
Warren E. Burger:
We'll hear first this morning Bullington v. Missouri.
Mr. Sindel, you may proceed whenever you are ready.
Richard H. Sindel:
Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
In July of 1978 Robert Bullington filed a motion to quash the jury panel to be commenced against him under this Court's decision in Taylor v. Louisiana.
It was contended at that time that the statutes constructed in Jackson County violated those provisions in that case in that they excluded women unconstitutionally from the jury.
Five months later he proceeded to trial for his life, at which time the jury came back with a verdict of guilty, the guilt phase of the trial, and rendered a sentence of life imprisonment.
The question now before this Court is whether or not the State of Missouri can seize upon the opportunity to take the reversal of that decision of guilt pursuant to this Court's decision in Duren v. Missouri and resubject and resentence this individual to a trial for his life.
Throughout the proceedings counsel for the defendant and the defendant persisted in claiming that to proceed to trial with the jury panel so composed violated his constitutional rights.
The trial court, following the mandates of the Missouri Supreme Court, denied these motions.
He proceeded to the trial.
Subsequent to the trial his motion for a new trial was sustained and a new trial was ordered.
The State filed a notice of aggravation of circumstances pursuant to Missouri statutory guidelines.
At that time the petitioner filed a notice to quash those aggravating circumstances, contending that he was subject to the Double Jeopardy Clause and that any retrial or relitigation of an issue that had already been determined by a jury was precluded by that clause.
He also at that time contended that it would unnecessarily and needlessly chill his rights to a jury trial, that it would be... that any sentence of death at the second proceeding would be excessive and disproportionate to any sentence, the sentence of life at the first proceeding, and that the statutory provisions under which the State intended to proceed were vague and overbroad under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
William H. Rehnquist:
Mr. Sindel, what if your client had been convicted by the jury or the judge and sentenced to the death penalty in the first proceeding and it was set aside on the Duren ground?
Richard H. Sindel:
I think that at that particular time since there had been no determination by the jury of an acquittal or that death was not the appropriate sentence in this particular case, and a jury is specifically instructed in Missouri as to what they need to find.
They need to find the existence of an aggravating circumstance beyond a reasonable doubt, and that that aggravating circumstance is not outweighed by any mitigating circumstances that are presented, either statutory or non-statutory.
If at that time the jury had obviously determined that in fact an aggravating circumstance did exist, then I think the State would not be precluded, because it would not be tantamount or substantially equivalent to a verdict of acquittal.
In this particular case the State had one full fair opportunity to present to the jury their version and why this defendant should suffer with his life.
And at this, they presented all the evidence they wanted to, they presented all the evidence that they had.
In fact, they have conceded that they have no additional evidence.
Harry A. Blackmun:
Does that make any difference?
Suppose they did not make that concession, would you be arguing the same way here today?
Richard H. Sindel:
Yes, I would.
I think that the verdict of acquittal... I don't believe that the State can seize upon the opportunity because of the trial court's necessary action considering the Missouri Supreme Court's refusal to recognize the decision in Taylor, the trial court's necessary action in putting this defendant to a trial, I do not think that they can seize upon that opportunity to muster additional evidence.
But I don't think that necessarily it makes any difference whether or not there is additional evidence or there is not, to the issue of double jeopardy.
The question is whether or not this defendant was placed in jeopardy, whether or not he went through the ordeal, the anguish of a trial and whether or not he should be subjected to that same ordeal, that same anguish, a second time when a jury, unobjected to by the State, a jury composed, in their opinion, I assume, properly, can then render a verdict of acquittal.
There's no question in Missouri that the sentencing phase is functionally equivalent to a trial.
There is no difference in a trial in the functioning phase except for the evidence that may be introduced.
John Paul Stevens:
Mr. Sindel, let me ask you one question, if I may.