McGautha v. California

RESPONDENT: California
LOCATION: Former New York Times Headquarters

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)

CITATION: 402 US 183 (1971)
ARGUED: Nov 09, 1970
DECIDED: May 03, 1971

Facts of the case


Media for McGautha v. California

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 09, 1970 in McGautha v. California

Warren E. Burger:

We’ll hear arguments next in number 204, Crampton against the State of Ohio.

Mr. Callahan, you may proceed whenever you’re ready.

John J. Callahan:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

The Crampton case presents a similar challenge to the imposition of the death penalty or cases of murder in the first degree under the Ohio procedure.

Similar to McGautha, the McGautha case in California, we decry the lack of standards to guide a jury in the selection of its penalties.

We have the added feature in Ohio of contending that a procedure which permits a jury to consider and determine the issues of guilt and punishment in a single proceeding violates the defendant’s rights under the Fifth Amendment to be free from self-incrimination.

The statutes involved in the Crampton case are the statute which defines murder in the first degree in Ohio which sets up the felony type murders and the necessity of deliberate or premeditated malice and also prescribes the punishment.

The statute says that the punishment is death unless the jury recommends mercy in which event the punishment is imprisonment in the penitentiary for life.

We are also bringing to the attention of the Court the statute which provides the right of allocution to a defendant in a criminal case.

The factual context of the Crampton situation is this.

James Crampton was a man approximately 40 years of age at the time of this incident, and he had been married to Wilma Crampton approximately four months at the time of the murder.

In November of 1966, shortly after the couple were married, Crampton admitted himself voluntarily to a hospital for treatment for drug addiction.

He later was confined under the court order of the Probate Court of Lucas County, Ohio to the Toledo State Hospital.

Shortly before the holidays of 1966, Crampton was released to his wife Wilma on a trial visit by the State Hospital authorities.

In January of 1967, she remonstrated with him to return to the hospital.

He refused then he left the family home. He remained away for approximately ten days to two weeks during which time, he was with a friend whom he admit in Pontiac, Michigan and traveled throughout the Ohio, Michigan and Indiana area procuring drugs with money that they obtained from thefts generally in motels.

On January 17, he returned to Toledo, Ohio and came to the residence of his wife at approximately seven o’clock in the evening.

Later the same evening, he was found driving a stolen car in the streets of downtown Toledo with a 45 caliber automatic on the front seat.

His wife’s body was discovered the following morning having been shot through the head with what appeared to be a 45 caliber automatic.

When he came to the Lucas County Court, he entered a plea of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to the charge of murder in the first degree.

At the trial of his case before a jury, he did not testify.

He supplied in order to support his plea of not guilty by a reason of insanity, the medical records from the hospitals that he had been in both before and after his arrest, and also his mother testified on his behalf with reference to his background.

The jury had to decide at a single seat whether or not the defendant was guilty or innocent, whether or not he was insane at the time of the crime or possess its faculties at the time of the crime and whether his punishment should be life imprisonment or death.

The instruction given to the jury and we have no quarrel with the instructions with reference to the guilt or the insanity issues involved.

The instruction given to the jury on the question of punishment was, if you find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree, this appears at page 5 five of the petitioner’s brief, the punishment is death unless you recommend mercy in which event the punishment is imprisonment during the penitentiary for life.

The jury found the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree did not recommend mercy and the defendant came before the court and was sentenced to death by electrocution in Ohio.

His appeal to the Ohio courts, the judgment of the lower courts have been upheld and this court has granted certiorari on the question of the standards question and what has been alluded to as the single verdict question.

In view of the fact that the standards question has been treated in depth to this point, I will address myself first to the question of Fifth Amendment problem as it arises in the Crampton case.

Warren E. Burger:

Can the trial judge in Ohio or the reviewing court alter the sentence?

John J. Callahan:

No Mr. Chief Justice, the -- once the jury in Ohio imposes the penalty of death it cannot be modified or affected by the trial court or by any appellate court unless there is a legal error found in the record with reference to the conviction and if the conviction falls of course the punishment falls with it but the sentence of death in and of itself imposed by the jury is absolutely immune at all stages in the trial and appellate procedure in Ohio.