Gagnon v. Scarpelli

RESPONDENT: Gerald Scarpello
LOCATION: Wisconsin Eastern U.S. District Courthouse

DOCKET NO.: 71-1225
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 411 US 778 (1973)
ARGUED: Jan 09, 1973
DECIDED: May 14, 1973

William M. Coffey - for respondent
William A. Platz - for petitioner

Facts of the case

This case allowed expanding the rights of those who committed the crime and are on probation. The plaintiff in the case was Scarpelli, who was on probation after committing an armed robbery in Wisconsin. Initially, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but soon the decision was changed to a more loyal one.

Almost immediately after the decision came into force, he committed a robbery of a private house. After this, the decision on the probation period was canceled, and the plaintiff was imprisoned. However, he did not deny his involvement in the second robbery but soon began to assert that he did it under the compulsion of the second accomplice. It was noteworthy that after the second robbery, the plaintiff was imprisoned without trial and making an appropriate decision. When a few years later he applied for a review of the term of his imprisonment, this fact was discovered.

The court ruled that the probation period can not be canceled without a proper trial, but simply on the basis of the defendant's allegations of his involvement in a repeat offense. According to the court, this violates the constitutional provision on the right of every person to an objective hearing. Moreover, the court ruled that such cases require the mandatory participation of a lawyer. Such cases are now resolved in two stages. At the first hearing, the guilt of a person in a repeat offense is clarified. If to the second hearing his guilt is proved, then the original sentence which was replaced by the probation period comes into force.


Is a previously sentenced probationer entitled to a hearing when his probation is revoked?

If so, is he entitled to representation by an attorney at the hearing?

Media for Gagnon v. Scarpelli

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 09, 1973 in Gagnon v. Scarpelli

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in 71-1225, Gagnon against Scarpelli.

William A. Platz:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Platz.

William A. Platz:

I might mentioned that my client pronounces his name in a French way, it’s Gagnon.

Warren E. Burger:

Gagnon and we’ll observe the French pronunciation then.

William A. Platz:

This case commenced actually on July 9, 1965 when Gerald Scarpelli was convicted in Wisconsin of armed robbery in the same county and was placed on probation for a period of seven years in the custody of what was then the State Department of Public Welfare which has control of all probationers and parolees in the State of Wisconsin.

He was also at the same time sentenced to a term of 15 years in the Wisconsin State Prison and that execution of the sentence was stayed pending the seven years probation.

He was permitted to leave the State of Wisconsin pursuant to the interstate compact for out of state parolee supervision and go to the state of Illinois where he resided.

His residence was in a suburb of Chicago and he was employed in another suburb of Chicago.

He was accepted for supervision by the Cook County Probation Department pursuant to the interstate compact on August 5th, 1965.

And on Friday August 6th, the following day, a home in Deerfield, Illinois which is a northern suburb of Chicago and is quite some distance North from Scarpelli’s residence and from his place of employment was burglarized during the day time in the morning and news of this came to the Department of Public Welfare which saw a news article in the Chicago tribune which contained two photographs including one of our probationer Scarpelli and also a statement which he gave to the Assistant State’s Attorney of Lake County, Illinois in which he made a full confession of his part in the burglary.

The co-defendant or the other burglar was also his co-defendant in the Wisconsin robbery of which he had been previously convicted.

I think Fred Kleckner, the other robber, the other burglar in Illinois was not at that time convicted in Wisconsin.

Kleckner was shot leaving the burglar premises and Scarpelli however escaped and was not taken in the custody for some little time.

Warren E. Burger:

Are you describing that the conduct which led to the revocation?

William A. Platz:

That is what I’m describing now, the conduct which led to the revocation.

Now, at that time in Wisconsin, the law was that there was no right to a hearing on revocation of probation.

Our law on probation was enacted in 1909, two years after our Parole Law.

The parole law had placed parolees in the custody of the old Board of Control which later became the Department of Public Welfare and two years later in 1909, the legislature enacted the Probation Law under which the courts could either impose sentence and stay execution thereof and place them on probation under the custody and control of the same department which had control of parolees and under the same rules and regulations or could withhold sentence all together and place them on probation.

In the case of Scarpelli, it was the case of the sentence being imposed and execution staid.

Now, originally in Wisconsin, the probation law required that before probation be revoked, there be a hearing.

The law said a personal hearing, a full investigation and personal hearing.

In 1947, that provision was removed in the course of the revision of the statute and there had been no hearing since then.

This Court in Escoe v. Zerbst did held that there was no constitutional right to a hearing on revocation or probation.

Potter Stewart:

There had been no hearing since then.

I suppose there have been perhaps hearings since Morrissey against Brewer, aren’t there?

William A. Platz:

Yes, Your Honor.

And since before that too but what I mean is up until the time of this case, there had been no action.

Now, this case was commenced in the Federal Court in December of 1968 which was over three years after the revocation.

And it took quite a while it was 1970 before it was decided in the Court, in the District Court.