Tibbs v. Florida

LOCATION: Fort Bragg

DOCKET NO.: 81-5114
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: Florida Supreme Court

CITATION: 457 US 31 (1982)
ARGUED: Mar 02, 1982
DECIDED: Jun 07, 1982

Louis R. Beller - on behalf of Petitioner
Michael A. Palecki - on behalf of Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Tibbs v. Florida

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 02, 1982 in Tibbs v. Florida

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments first this morning in Tibbs against Florida.

Mr. Beller, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Louis R. Beller:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

I received the briefs, both the brief of the United States as amicus curiae and the answering brief from the State of Florida.

I think the question has been misstated in the answering brief for the State of Florida.

The question that they cite is whether the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy precludes retrial of the Petitioner where the appellate court, acting as a thirteenth juror, assessed the credibility of the witnesses and re-weighed the evidence, concluding that although the evidence was sufficient as a matter of law to sustain the verdicts, the Petitioner should be afforded a new trial.

I think the question is just pure and simple, as stated in my original brief, whether or not the double jeopardy applies where the Court has grounds for retrial under the double jeopardy clause because of the fact that the court originally weighed and found the evidence insufficient to convict the Petitioner.

Mr. Beller, where is Mr. Tibbs now?

Louis R. Beller:

Mr. Tibbs is in Chicago.

He was... on the motion to dismiss, the case was discharged.

He was out on bond at that particular time, but of course the bond would then be dropped.

But he is not incarcerated now?

Louis R. Beller:

No, he is not.

The question of double jeopardy, as opposed to weight, is presented in the Government's brief as amicus curiae, and they say it would affect Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure applies to the trial court, who in effect is sitting as a thirteenth juror, because the trial court does see the evidence, does see the witnesses, weighs the credibility of the witnesses.

I don't think anything that this Court does in the Delbert Tibbs case should have any effect upon Rule 33.

I think that's a good rule.

The trial court sitting as a thirteenth juror... that's the trial court, not an appellate court... has the same opportunity as the parties who are the jurors to weigh the evidence.

And if the trial court feels under Rule 33 that there should be a new trial, it orders a new trial in the interest of justice.

Now, what happened in this particular case is that the appellate court of the State of Florida, the Supreme Court, who is the direct court of appeals in a murder trial, under Rule 9.140 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure... or Appellate Procedure... (f), did review the case and reviewed the totality of the case, did, as it is required to do, did a total review of the evidence.

And I'm sure the Court is aware of the various points of evidence that it did review.

But what it did was this.

It said that this evidence is insufficient.

It didn't use that phraseology.

It said that the evidence was... there were insufficiencies in the evidence.

There were things about the evidence.

And then it went on to list--

Did they not say in effect there was not enough evidence here for the jury to reach the verdict that it reached?

Louis R. Beller:


They concluded that there was not enough evidence for a reasonable man to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant was guilty.