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TEXAS v. MCCULLOUGH

decided: February 26, 1986.

TEXAS
v.
MCCULLOUGH



CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS OF TEXAS.

Burger, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which White, Powell, Rehnquist, and O'connor, JJ., joined. Brennan, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 144. Marshall, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Blackmun and Stevens, JJ., joined, post, p. 145.

Author: Burger

[ 475 U.S. Page 135]

 CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari to decide whether the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was violated when the defendant in a state court received a greater sentence on retrial where the earlier sentence was imposed by the jury, the trial judge granted the defendant's motion for a new trial, the defendant requested that in the second trial the judge fix the sentence, and the judge entered findings of fact justifying the longer sentence.

I

In 1980, Sanford James McCullough was tried before a jury in the Randall County, Texas, District Court and convicted of murder. McCullough elected to be sentenced by the jury, as was

[ 475 U.S. Page 136]

     his right under Texas law. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann., Art. 37.07 (Vernon 1981). The jury imposed a 20-year sentence. Judge Naomi Harney, the trial judge, then granted McCullough's motion for a new trial on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct.

Three months later, McCullough was retried before a jury, with Judge Harney again presiding. At this trial, the State presented testimony from two witnesses who had not testified at the first trial that McCullough rather than his accomplices had slashed the throat of the victim. McCullough was again found guilty by a jury. This time, he elected to have his sentence fixed by the trial judge. Judge Harney sentenced McCullough to 50 years in prison and, upon his motion, made findings of fact as to why the sentence was longer than that fixed by the jury in the first trial. She found that in fixing the sentence she relied on new evidence about the murder that was not presented at the first trial and hence never made known to the sentencing jury. The findings focused specifically on the testimony of two new witnesses, Carolyn Hollison McCullough and Willie Lee Brown, which "had a direct effect upon the strength of the State's case at both the guilt and punishment phases of the trial." App. to Pet. for Cert. A-23. In addition, Judge Harney explained that she learned for the first time on retrial McCullough had been released from prison only four months before the later crime had been committed. Ibid. Finally, the judge candidly stated that, had she fixed the first sentence, she would have imposed more than 20 years. Id., at A-24.*fn1

On appeal, the Texas Court of Appeals reversed and resentenced McCullough to 20 years' imprisonment. 680 S. W. 2d 493 (1983). That court considered itself bound by this Court's decision in North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711 (1969), and held that a longer sentence upon retrial could be

[ 475 U.S. Page 137]

     imposed only if it was based upon conduct of the defendant occurring after the original trial.*fn2 Petitioner sought review in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and that court limited its review to whether the Texas Court of Appeals had authority to limit respondent's sentence to 20 years. 720 S. W. 2d 89 (1983). The court concluded that, as a matter of procedure, the case should have been remanded to the trial judge for resentencing. On petitioner's motion for rehearing, the court concluded that under Pearce vindictiveness must be presumed even though a jury had fixed punishment at the first trial and a judge had fixed it at the second trial. We granted certiorari. 472 U.S. 1007 (1985). We reverse.

II

In North Carolina v. Pearce, supra, the Court placed a limitation on the power of a sentencing authority to increase a sentence after reconviction following a new trial. It held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prevented increased sentences when that increase was motivated by vindictiveness on the part of the sentencing judge. The Court stated:

"Due process of law, then, requires that vindictiveness against a defendant for having successfully attacked his first conviction must play no part in the sentence he receives after a new trial. And since the fear of such vindictiveness may unconstitutionally deter a defendant's exercise of the right to appeal or collaterally attack his first conviction, due process also requires that a defendant

[ 475 U.S. Page 138]

     be freed of apprehension of such a retaliatory motivation on the part of the sentencing judge.

"In order to assure the absence of such a motivation, we have concluded that whenever a judge imposes a more severe sentence upon a defendant after a new trial, the reasons for his doing so must affirmatively appear." Id., at 725-726 (emphasis added).

Beyond doubt, vindictiveness of a sentencing judge is the evil the Court sought to prevent rather than simply enlarged sentences after a new trial. The Pearce requirements thus do not apply in every case where a convicted defendant receives a higher sentence on retrial. Like other "judicially created means of effectuating the rights secured by the [Constitution]," Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, 482 (1976), we have restricted application of Pearce to areas where its "objectives are thought most efficaciously served," 428 U.S., at 487. Accordingly, in each case, we look to the need, under the circumstances, to "guard against vindictiveness in the resentencing process." Chaffin v. Stynchcombe, 412 U.S. 17, 25 (1973) (emphasis omitted). For example, in Moon v. Maryland, 398 U.S. 319 (1970), we held that Pearce did not apply when the defendant conceded and it was clear that vindictiveness had played no part in the enlarged sentence. In Colten v. Kentucky, 407 U.S. 104 (1972), we saw no need for applying the presumption when the second court in a two-tier trial system imposed a longer sentence. In Chaffin, supra, we held Pearce not applicable where a jury imposed the increased sentence on retrial. Where the prophylactic rule of Pearce does not apply, the defendant may still obtain relief if he can show actual vindictiveness upon resentencing. Wasman v. United States, 468 U.S. 559, 569 (1984).

The facts of this case provide no basis for a presumption of vindictiveness. In contrast to Pearce, McCullough's second trial came about because the trial judge herself concluded that the prosecutor's misconduct required it. Granting

[ 475 U.S. Page 139]

     McCullough's motion for a new trial hardly suggests any vindictiveness on the part of the judge towards him. "[Unlike] the judge who has been reversed," the trial judge here had "no motivation to engage in self-vindication." Chaffin, 412 U.S., at 27. In such circumstances, there is also no justifiable concern about "institutional interests that might occasion higher sentences by a judge desirous of discouraging what he regards as meritless appeals." Ibid. In granting McCullough's new trial motion, Judge Harney went on record as agreeing that his "claims" had merit. Presuming vindictiveness on this basis alone would be tantamount to presuming that a judge will be vindictive towards a defendant merely because he seeks an acquittal. Thus, in support of its position, the dissent conjures up visions of judges who view defendants as temerarious for filing motions for new trials, post, at 151, and who are "annoyed" at being forced "to sit through . . . [trials] whose [results] [are] foregone [conclusions]," post, at 150. We decline to adopt the view that the judicial temperament of our Nation's trial judges will suddenly change upon the filing of a successful post-trial motion. The presumption of Pearce does not apply in situations where the possibility of vindictiveness is this speculative, particularly since the presumption may often "operate in the absence of any proof of an improper motive and thus . . . block a legitimate response to criminal conduct," United States v. Goodwin, 457 U.S. 368, 373 (1982). Indeed, not even "apprehension of such a retaliatory motivation on the part of the sentencing judge," Pearce, 395 U.S., at 725, could be present in this case. McCullough was entitled by law to choose to be sentenced by either a judge or a jury. Faced with that choice, on retrial McCullough chose to be sentenced by Judge Harney. There can hardly be more emphatic affirmation of his appraisal of Judge Harney's fairness than this choice. Because there was no realistic motive for vindictive sentencing, the Pearce presumption was inappropriate.

[ 475 U.S. Page 140]

     The presumption is also inapplicable because different sentencers assessed the varying sentences that McCullough received. In such circumstances, a sentence "increase" cannot truly be said to have taken place. In Colten v. Kentucky, supra, which bears directly on this case, we recognized that when different sentencers are involved,

"[it] may often be that the [second sentencer] will impose a punishment more severe than that received from the [first]. But it no more follows that such a sentence is a vindictive penalty for seeking a [new] trial than that the [first sentencer] imposed a lenient penalty." Id., at 117.

Here, the second sentencer provides an on-the-record, wholly logical, nonvindictive reason for the sentence. We read Pearce to require no more, particularly since trial judges must be accorded broad discretion in sentencing, see Wasman, supra, at 563-564.

In this case, the trial judge stated candidly her belief that the 20-year sentence respondent received initially was unduly lenient in light of significant evidence not before the sentencing jury in the first trial. On this record, that appraisal cannot be faulted. In any event, nothing in the Constitution prohibits a state from permitting such discretion to play a role in sentencing.*fn3

[ 475 U.S. Page 141]

     III

Even if the Pearce presumption were to apply here, we hold that the findings of the trial judge overcome that presumption. Nothing in Pearce is to be read as precluding a rebuttal of intimations of vindictiveness. As we have explained, Pearce permits "a sentencing authority [to] justify an increased sentence by affirmatively identifying relevant conduct or events that occurred subsequent to the original sentencing proceedings." Wasman, 468 U.S., at 572; see also id., at 573 (POWELL, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment). This language, however, was never intended to describe exhaustively all of the possible circumstances in which a sentence increase could be justified. Restricting justifications for a sentence increase to only ...


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