Mayberry v. Pennsylvania

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

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)

CITATION: 400 US 455 (1971)
ARGUED: Dec 17, 1970
DECIDED: Jan 20, 1971

Facts of the case


Media for Mayberry v. Pennsylvania

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 17, 1970 in Mayberry v. Pennsylvania

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments Number 121, Mayberry against Pennsylvania, is the counsel ready?

Mr. Reitz can you conveniently, do you think without discommoding yourself, present a section of your argument now in about seven minutes?

Curtis R. Reitz:

I’ll try.

Warren E. Burger:

Before we recess.

Curtis R. Reitz:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

I think it's fortuitous that the morning ends with the case that involves a different kind of speech.

We have here a criminal contempt case arising from Pennsylvania which is in my research unprecedented in the law of criminal contempt.

We have a defendant who was on trial in 1966 under two very serious charges for prison breach and for holding hostage, in the course of a prison breach, charges which had a potential of life imprisonment under the second of those charges.

The trial lasted 22 days, 22 trial days, it stretched from November 7 until December 22 on a calendar.

During those 22 days of the defendant and two co-defendants were representing themselves on these very serious charges.

At the conclusion of the trial, after the jury verdict had been brought in on 22nd day, the trial judge opened the next session of Court on Monday morning and excoriated all three defendants, summarily convicted them of criminal contempt and held that as to 11 separate days, although, there were multiple incidents involved, that petitioner Mayberry had been guilty of criminal contempt.

On each one of those 11 charges as he recited the facts as he recalled them, he imposed a sentence of a minimum of one year and a maximum of two years in state prison.

After each one of those sentences following the first, he directed that each one of those sentences be served consecutively.

So that the first of his impositions of sentence was a sentence in aggregation of 11 years at a minimum and 22 years at a maximum for criminal contempt.

Warren E. Burger:

Now, clarify for me if you will Mr. Reitz the relationship of these sentences collectively to the sentence on the substantive charge.

Curtis R. Reitz:

He then proceeded Mr. Chief Justice to sentence on a substantive charge and he gave a sentence for prison breach of 10 years which was the maximum.

Five years minimum, 10 years maximum which was the maximum permitted by the statutes of Pennsylvania for prison breach.

Warren E. Burger:

Now, is that consecutive?

Curtis R. Reitz:

That was also consecutive.

He then imposed a sentence of 30 years maximum, 15 years minimum for the charge of holding hostage.

The aggregate of all of that was 40 years on the substantive crimes, 22 years for criminal contempt or a net sentence of 62 years with a 31-year minimum.

That was the sentence imposed that morning.

I'm told, although, I have not seen the documents itself that a few days later, he reversed the order of sentencing so that the -- although, he started that Monday morning with the criminal contempt sentence and then followed with the substantive crimes but he directed the sentence on a substantive crimes.

For 40 years, he served first and then the 22 years for criminal contempt.

But the net effect of the sentencing that morning was 22 years for criminal contempt, 40 years for substantive crime, 62 years total.

I am aware of no criminal contempt sentence which comes even within a long distance of that sentence.

There had been many studies made of criminal contempts over the years.

None of them reflected a sentence that is even one-seventh, who’s great for any kind of criminal contempt.

In that same session, the judge sentenced the two co-defendants also for criminal contempt.

On exactly the same methodology, he had it this per diem method and it was two years for each day on which he found a criminal contempt had been committed.