Ciucci v. Illinois

LOCATION: United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)

CITATION: 356 US 571 (1958)
ARGUED: Mar 13, 1958
DECIDED: May 19, 1958

Facts of the case


Media for Ciucci v. Illinois

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 13, 1958 in Ciucci v. Illinois

Earl Warren:

Number 157, Vincent Ciucci, Petitioner, versus People of the State of Illinois.

We'll wait just a moment until the counsel gets in.

Mr. Leighton, you may proceed now.

George N. Leighton:

May it please the Court.

This case is before this Court on grant of certiorari to review judgment of the Supreme Court of Illinois in which the conviction of the defendant in the Criminal Court of Cook County was affirmed and a death sentence imposed.

The federal question which is presented here is whether under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, a state can construe the alleged criminal acts of a defendant so as to indict him under four separate indictments, try him four times introducing in evidence against him the same proof showing that he committed four offenses which the state contends are distinct crimes.

Now, if I may be allowed a moment to state the facts of which this question arises, if Your Honors please.

Vincent Ciucci was indicted in the Criminal Court of Cook County charged with the murder of his wife and three children and the incident giving rise to the indictments occurred in the early morning hours of December 5, 1953 when his home was discovered on fire.

The firemen found his wife and his three children dead in the little home they occupied as part of a store that was owned and operated by the Ciucci family.

Ciucci first was indicted separately for the murder of his wife and he was tried in a separate trial and he was found guilty and sentenced to a term of 20 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary.

The State of Illinois does not contradict the facts that at that first trial there was introduced in evidence all of the facts showing the killing of four persons.

The jury considered all these evidence and returned a verdict of guilty and sentenced Ciucci to 20 years imprisonment in the Illinois State Penitentiary.

As soon as that happened the prosecutor for Cook County announced in the newspapers that this was a miscarriage of justice and that he, the prosecutor, was going to see to it that some jury was found that would impose what he thought was an adequate penalty for this crime which he thought enormous.

Are those statements in the newspapers controverted by the State anyway?

George N. Leighton:

They are not, Your Honor.

Now, they proceeded to try him the second time and it is not contradicted that at the second trial, they introduced the same proof that they had submitted to the jury in the first case.

And the jury again, considered the evidence from all that appears adequately and properly and returned a verdict of guilty and sentenced him this time for the murder of his oldest daughter Angeline to a term of 45 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary.

Contemporaneous with that, the prosecutor announced in the newspapers that this also was a miscarriage of justice and that he said, he thought that some jury ought to see what he thought in the matter that only death was a proper penalty for Ciucci.

Now, it happens that in the first trial, they discovered there was some inconsistency in the proof.

There was some question where these three persons had met their deaths by inhalation of carbon monoxide or whether they had come to their deaths by shooting.

So that, the State's attorney while the three remaining of the four indictments obtained in 1953 remained pending, went before the grand jury and obtained three others.

So, as we point out in this brief at one time, Ciucci had been under six separate indictments charging him with three separate crimes.

In April of 1954 on motion of the prosecution, three of the remaining indictments obtained in 1953 with nolle prosequi on motion of the State and there remained the three indictments obtained in 1954.

After the second trial in which Ciucci was found guilty and sentenced to 45 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary, again, the prosecutor announced this was not satisfactory.

And he proceeded then to try him a third time under the indictment charging him with the murder of his son, Vincent, Jr.

This time when the trial had gone on in a few days a mishap occurred and a mistrial was declared on motion of the defendant.

And then the fourth trial was begun.

And I think that it is clear from this record, and certainly all of us who have had experience in the trial of criminal cases known, that by the simple process of rearranging the evidence they finally -- as we argue here, found an arrangement of the evidence, the same proof, the same evidence, but a rearrangement of it by this experience of three trials.

They found an arrangement which convinced the jury that this crime was of the enormity deserving the extreme penalty.

Felix Frankfurter:

In Illinois, according to Illinois law, could there have been a trial for the death of all the victims?