Caspari v. Bohlen

PETITIONER:Caspari, Superintendent, Missouri Eastern Correctional Center, et al.
LOCATION:Colorado Springs, Colorado

DOCKET NO.: 92-1500
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1993-1994)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 510 US 383 (1994)
ARGUED: Dec 06, 1993
DECIDED: Feb 23, 1994

Frank A. Jung – on behalf of the Petitioners
Michael D. Gooch – for the National Legal Aid and Defender Association et al. as amici curiae urging affirmance
Richard H. Sindel – on behalf of the Respondent
William K. Kelley – as amicus curiae, supporting the Petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Caspari v. Bohlen

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – December 06, 1993 in Caspari v. Bohlen

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – February 23, 1994 in Caspari v. Bohlen

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinions of the Court in two cases will be announced by Justice O’Connor.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

The first of the cases is Caspari against Bohlen which comes to us on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

The respondent, Christopher Bohlen, was convicted in Missouri State Court on three counts of first degree robbery.

He was sentenced as a persistent offender to three consecutive 15-year prison terms.

Under Missouri law, a persistent offender is someone the trial judge finds beyond the reasonable doubt who have been convicted of two or more prior felonies.

The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction but reversed the sentence because no proof had been made of the prior convictions.

On remand, the state introduced evidence of four prior felony convictions, rejecting the respondent’s contention that allowing the state another opportunity to prove his prior convictions violated the Double Jeopardy Clause.

The trial judge found the respondent to be a persistent offender and again, sentenced him to three consecutive 15-year terms.

The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed.

The respondent subsequently filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus.

The United States District Court denied the petition rejecting the contention that the Double Jeopardy Clause barred the state from introducing evidence of his prior convictions on remand.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed.

It recognized that we have previously applied the Double Jeopardy Clause to bar a subsequent capital sentencing hearing and it held that applying the same double jeopardy protection to a non-capital case would not require the announcement of a new rule of constitutional law in violation of the non-retroactivity principle of Teague against Lane.

We disagree and in an opinion filed today with the Clerk, we reverse.

On federal habeas, the court must survey the legal landscape as it existed when the conviction and sentence became final and it must determine whether a State Court considering the defendant’s claim at that time would have felt compelled to conclude that the rule he seeks was required by the Constitution.

In this case, we conclude that the State Court would not have felt so compelled.

We have repeatedly held that the pronouncement of sentence has never carried the constitutional finality that attaches to an acquittal.

Although we have recognized an exception to that principle in Bullington against Missouri for capital cases, we have not extended that rationale to non-capital cases at the time respondent’s conviction and sentence became final.

And in deed, several of our cases pointed in the opposite direction.

Moreover, the lower State and Federal Courts were divided on the question.

We conclude that applying the Double Jeopardy Clause to respondent’s subsequent non-capital hearing was not dictated by precedent at the time his conviction and sentence became final.

We also hold that neither of the two narrow exceptions to the non-retroactive activity principle apply.

And because of our resolution of the case on Teague grounds, we have no occasion to decide in this case whether the Double Jeopardy Clause applies to non-capital sentencing, or whether the Missouri’s persistent offender scheme is sufficiently trial-like to invoke those protections, nor do we have to consider the state’s contention that Bullington should be overruled.

Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion.