MOORE V. MISSOURI, 159 U. S. 673 (1895)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Moore v. Missouri, 159 U.S. 673 (1895)

Moore v. Missouri

No. 493

Argued and submitted October 30, 1895

Decided November 25, 1895

159 U.S. 673


The provision in section 3959 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri that prisoners convicted two or more times of committing offenses punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary shall be punished with increased severity for the later offenses does not in any way conflict with the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

A state may provide that persons who have been before convicted of crime may suffer severer punishment for subsequent offenses than for a first offense against the law, and that a different punishment for the same offense may be inflicted under particular circumstances, provided it is dealt out to all alike who are similarly situated.

Whether an indictment in a state court is sufficient in its description of the degree of the offense charged is a matter for the state court to determine, and its decision in that respect presents no federal question.

No question which could be regarded as a federal question having been raised at his trial, the prisoner was not subjected to an unconstitutional ruling in not being allowed to have his case heard at large by seven judges, instead of by three.

Frank Moore was indicted in the St. Louis Criminal Court for burglary in the first degree and larceny in a dwelling house on May 26, 1893. The indictment also charged that defendant

"on the eleventh day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy-seven at the City of St. Louis aforesaid, in the St. Louis Criminal Court, was duly convicted on his own confession of the offense of grand larceny, and in accordance with said conviction was duly sentenced by said court to an imprisonment in the penitentiary for the term of three years, and was duly imprisoned

Page 159 U. S. 674

in said penitentiary in accordance with said sentence, and that after his discharge from the penitentiary upon compliance with the sentence, he committed the said offenses of burglary and larceny."

Being duly arraigned, he pleaded not guilty, but subsequently withdrew his plea and filed a motion to quash the indictment for duplicity and

"because section 3959, under which the said indictment purports to charge the defendant with a former conviction, is unconstitutional and illegal and void and in conflict with the Constitution of the United States and the State of Missouri."

The motion being overruled, he was again arraigned, pleaded not guilty, and was put upon his trial, which resulted in a verdict of guilty of burglary in the second degree, his punishment being fixed by the jury at imprisonment in the penitentiary for life. A motion for a new trial was made for the following cause, among others,

"because the court erred in overruling defendant's motion to quash the indictment for the reason that it violated both the state and federal constitutions,"

and, that motion being overruled, Moore filed a motion in arrest of judgment upon various grounds, and among them that burglary in the second degree was not included in the offense of burglary in the first degree, but was a separate and distinct offense; that the statute upon which the indictment was founded was

"unconstitutional and void in that it violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the federal Constitution, and violates the 'bill of Rights' in the Constitution of Missouri in prescribing a second punishment for the same offense and different punishment for different persons for committing the same offense,"

that the indictment, in charging the former conviction, attacked defendant's character when not in issue, and that the indictment failed to inform the defendant of the accusation against him. The motion in arrest was overruled and Moore sentenced to the penitentiary for life in accordance with the verdict, whereupon he appealed to the Supreme Court of Missouri, Division No. 2, by which the judgment was affirmed. 121 Mo. 514. Moore afterwards moved for a rehearing upon the ground, among others, that he

"was acquitted by the jury of all and every charge against him in the

Page 159 U. S. 675

indictment, and yet stands sentenced for an offense not named in the indictment nor included in any offense described therein, and thus is deprived of his constitutional right of being prosecuted under an indictment informing him of the nature and cause of the accusation against him,"

and also moved that the motion and cause be transferred to the court in banc. These motions were denied, and thereafter Moore moved the Supreme Court sitting in banc to set aside the judgment of Division No. 2, and to order that division to transfer the cause to the court in banc for the reason that the cause involved a federal question or questions raised by his motions to quash the indictment, for a new trial, and in arrest of judgment. The supreme court in banc denied this motion and also a second motion to the same effect. A writ of error from this Court was subsequently allowed.

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