United States v. Jackson

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: United States District Court of Maryland

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)

CITATION: 390 US 570 (1968)
ARGUED: Dec 07, 1967
DECIDED: Apr 08, 1968

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Jackson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 07, 1967 in United States v. Jackson

Earl Warren:

Number 85, United States, Appellant, versus Charles Jackson et al.

Mr. Spritzer.

Ralph S. Spritzer:

Mr. Chief Justice and Your Honors.

This is a direct appeal taken by the United States from the District Court in Connecticut, dismissing a kidnapping indictment returned against the three appellees here.

An indictment which alleged among other things that the victim had not been liberated unharmed.

The ground of the Court's dismissal is that the penalty provisions of the Kidnapping Act operate in a way that creates an inducement to waive the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial.

The District Court analogized this case to Griffin against California, stating that the scheme made the assertion of the constitutional right foster.

Now, the penalty provisions of the Kidnapping Act appear at page 2 of the Government's brief.

And you will note that they provide for a punishment, one by that, if the kidnapped person has not been liberated unharmed and if the jury shall so recommend.

Or two, by imprisonment for any term of years or for life if the death penalty is not enclosed, after corresponding from that, that a jury recommendation is a precondition to imposition of the death penalty.

The district judge was of the further view that a jury recommendation of the death penalty would be binding upon him.

Now, in that, we do not agree with his conclusion for our reasons which I shall develop later.

But first I propose to go on, if I may, and to indicate the reasoning to which this conclusion led him.

His next step was to conclude that the hazard, the hazard that the jury might make such a binding determination would tend or might tend to induce the defendant to avoid the jury trial, either by seeking to waive that right or by pleading guilty to the indictment.

Now, Judge Timbers, the district judge, of course recognized that a waiver of jury trial depends upon the consent of the Government and the approval of the Court, and also, that the Court may refuse to accept a guilty plea.

He also recognized that a number of federal judges in cases arising under this Act and also in cases arising under the somewhat similar provisions feeling with aggravated bank robbery have in fact convened a jury to consider the circumstances of the offense and to make a recommendation as to punishment in circumstances where the Court has allowed a waiver of jury trial or accepted the plea of guilty, in other words, they have convened the jury solely on the issue of punishment.

And parenthetically, I might note that we made a check of records of the Bureau of Prisons and the relevant case files of the Department of Justice as to the number of death sentences which were finally imposed in cases arising under the kidnapping statute and under the similar provisions of the Bank Robbery Act, both statutes which have been on -- both statutes are on the books for approximately 30 odd years.

And there were 10 such cases that we found.

In five of these 10 cases, the judge had accepted a guilty plea and then had convened a jury on the issue of punishment alone.

Byron R. White:

Is this what had happened just in any criminal case or is this under the statute?

Ralph S. Spritzer:

Well, I think there would be no --

Byron R. White:

I mean under all of the statutes that provides for jury provision in the sense.

Ralph S. Spritzer:

Well that's a very limited number insofar as the federal scheme is concerned, Your Honor.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

It's in the district though, isn't it?

Ralph S. Spritzer:

Pardon me sir.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Isn't this true of some statutes in the district?

Ralph S. Spritzer:

There is a somewhat similar statute in the district on rape, yes, on rape (Voice Overlap).

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Is that also true do you think --

Ralph S. Spritzer:

Pardon sir.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Is that true in the district that even if a jury on a rape conviction was not to make a recommendation and therefore death ordinarily will follow but the judge nevertheless may impose life.