LUDWIG V. MASSACHUSETTS, 427 U. S. 618 (1976)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ludwig v. Massachusetts, 427 U.S. 618 (1976)

Ludwig v. Massachusetts

No. 75-377

Argued April 28, 1976

Decided June 30, 1976

427 U.S. 618


Under Massachusetts' two-tier court system, a person accused of certain crimes is tried in the first instance in the lower tier, where no trial by jury is available. If convicted, he may appeal to the second tier, and, if he was convicted after a proceeding on a not-guilty plea, or by "admitting sufficient findings of fact," he is entitled to a trial de novo by jury in the second tier. Appellant, after he pleaded not guilty and after his motion for a jury trial was denied, was tried and convicted in a first-tier court. He then appealed to the second tier, and after unsuccessfully moving to dismiss on grounds that he had been deprived of his constitutional right to a speedy jury trial in the first instance and had been subjected to double jeopardy, he waived a jury trial and was again convicted. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the denial of appellant's request to be tried by a jury at his first trial did not violate his constitutional right to a speedy trial or to a trial by jury, and that the Massachusetts procedure did not violate the constitutional prohibition against putting a person twice in jeopardy.


1. The Massachusetts two-tier court system does not deprive an accused of his Fourteenth Amendment right to a jury trial, but absolutely guarantees trial by jury to persons accused of serious crimes, and the manner specified for exercising this right is fair and not unduly burdensome. Callan v. Wilson, 127 U. S. 540, distinguished. Pp. 427 U. S. 624-630.

(a) Within the system, the jury serves its function of protecting an accused from prosecutorial and judicial misconduct. Pp. 427 U. S. 625-626.

(b) That an accused may undertake the financial cost of an additional trial does not unconstitutionally burden the right to a jury trial because he is not required to pursue a defense at the lower tier. Moreover, if an accused is indigent, the State is required to furnish him counsel without cost. Pp. 427 U. S. 626-627.

(c) Nor does the possibility of a harsher sentence at the second tier impermissibly burden the accused's right to a jury

Page 427 U. S. 619

trial. North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U. S. 711; Colten v. Kentucky, 407 U. S. 104. P. 427 U. S. 627.

(d) Where appellant no longer urges that he was denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial, and there is no evidence that there is a greater delay in obtaining a jury in Massachusetts than there would be if the two-tier system were abandoned, it cannot properly be contended that the system unconstitutionally burdens the right to a jury trial by imposing the increased psychological and physical hardships of two trials. Pp. 427 U. S. 628-629.

2. The Massachusetts procedure does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth, and appellant's claim that, because he had been placed once in jeopardy and convicted, the State may not retry him when he decides to "appeal" and secure a trial de novo, is without merit. An accused who elects to be tried de novo is in no different position from a convicted defendant who successfully appeals on the basis of the trial record and gains a reversal of his conviction and a remand for a new trial. Nothing in the Double Jeopardy Clause prohibits a State from affording a defendant two opportunities to avoid conviction and secure an acquittal. Pp. 427 U. S. 630-632.

___ Mass. ___, 330 N.E.2d 467, affirmed.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and WHITE, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 427 U. S. 632. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, STEWART, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 427 U. S. 632.

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