JUSTICES OF BOSTON MUN. CT. V. LYDON, 466 U. S. 294 (1984)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Justices of Boston Mun. Ct. v. Lydon, 466 U.S. 294 (1984)

Justices of Boston Municipal Court v. Lydon

No. 82-1479

Argued December 6, 1983

Decided April 18, 1984

466 U.S. 294


Under Massachusetts law, a defendant charged with certain minor crimes in Boston Municipal Court may elect to have a bench trial or a jury trial. If he chooses a jury trial and is convicted, he has the normal appellate process open to him, but if he chooses a bench trial and is dissatisfied with the results, he has an absolute right to a trial de novo before a jury, and need not allege error at the bench trial to obtain de novo review. However, there is no right to appellate review of a bench trial conviction. Respondent elected to undergo a first-tier bench trial on a charge of knowing possession of implements designed for breaking into an automobile to steal property. He was convicted and sentenced to a jail term, the trial judge having rejected his claim that the prosecution had introduced no evidence of intent to steal. Respondent then requested a de novo jury trial and was released on personal recognizance pending retrial. Before the jury trial commenced, respondent moved to dismiss the charge on the ground that no evidence of intent had been presented at the bench trial, and thus retrial was barred under Burks v. United States, 437 U. S. 1, which held that the Double Jeopardy Clause bars a second trial when a reviewing court reverses a conviction on the ground that the evidence presented at the first trial was legally insufficient. The motion to dismiss was denied, and respondent then sought relief in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which ultimately held that Burks was inapplicable because no appellate court had ruled that the evidence was insufficient at respondent's bench trial. The Massachusetts court also ruled that a trial de novo without a determination as to the sufficiency of the evidence at the bench trial would not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause. Respondent then sought habeas corpus relief in Federal District Court, which held that respondent was "in custody" for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b) and that he had exhausted his state remedies. Finding for respondent on the merits, the court concluded that, under Burks, a second trial was foreclosed if the evidence against respondent at the bench trial was insufficient, and that there was insufficient evidence of intent at the bench trial to support respondent's conviction. The Court of Appeals affirmed.


1. The District Court had jurisdiction to entertain respondent's habeas corpus action. Pp. 466 U. S. 300-303.

Page 466 U. S. 295

(a) For purposes of the federal habeas corpus statutes, respondent was in "custody" even though his conviction was vacated when he applied for a trial de novo and he had been released on personal recognizance. The use of habeas corpus is not restricted to situations in which the applicant is in actual physical custody. The Massachusetts statute under which respondent was released subjected him to restraints not shared by the public generally, including the obligations to appear in court for trial and not to depart without leave. Cf. Hensley v. Municipal Court, 411 U. S. 345. Pp. 466 U. S. 300-302.

(b) Respondent had exhausted his state remedies with respect to his double jeopardy claim. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected his claim, and the fact that he might ultimately be acquitted at the trial de novo did not alter the fact that he had taken his claim that he should not be tried again as far as he could in the state courts. A requirement that a defendant run the entire gamut of state procedures, including retrial, prior to consideration of his claim in federal court would require him to sacrifice the protection of the Double Jeopardy Clause against being twice put to trial for the same offense. Pp. 466 U. S. 302-303.

2. Respondent's retrial de novo without any judicial determination of the sufficiency of the evidence at his prior bench trial will not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause. Pp. 466 U. S. 304-313.

(a) Ludwig v. Massachusetts, 427 U. S. 618 -- upholding a prior Massachusetts two-tier system of trial courts that differed from the present one by requiring a defendant to participate in the first-tier proceedings and by not allowing him to choose a jury trial in the first instance -- was not disturbed by the decision in Burks, supra, and is dispositive of the double jeopardy issue here. Pp. 466 U. S. 304-306.

(b) In this case, the State is not attempting, contrary to the guarantees embodied in the Double Jeopardy Clause, to impose multiple punishments for a single offense or to convict respondent after acquittal. Respondent has not been acquitted; he simply maintains that he ought to have been. Pp. 466 U. S. 306-308.

(c) The concept of "continuing jeopardy" is implicit in the general rule that the Double Jeopardy Clause does not bar retrial after reversal of a conviction. Acquittal terminates the initial jeopardy, and Burks recognizes that a determination by a reviewing court that the evidence was legally insufficient likewise terminates the initial jeopardy. Respondent failed to identify any stage of the state proceedings that can be held to have terminated jeopardy. Pp. 466 U. S. 308-310.

(d) The Massachusetts system does not constitute governmental oppression of the sort against which the Double Jeopardy Clause was intended to protect, even when a defendant convicted at the first tier claims insufficiency of the evidence. The defendant's absolute right to obtain a de novo jury trial without alleging error at the bench trial ameliorates

Page 466 U. S. 296

the danger of affording the prosecution an opportunity to supply evidence which it failed to muster in the first proceeding. The prosecution has every incentive to put forward its strongest case at the bench trial, because an acquittal would preclude reprosecution of the defendant. There is nothing to stop a defendant from choosing a bench trial for the sole purpose of getting a preview of the State's case to enable him to prepare better for the jury trial. The two-tier system, unlike a more conventional system, gives a defendant two opportunities to be acquitted on the facts. If the prosecution obtains a conviction at the second trial, the defendant then has the usual appellate remedies. Pp. 466 U. S. 310-312.

698 F.2d 1, reversed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BLACKMUN and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined; in Parts I and II of which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined; and in Parts I, II-B, III, and IV of which BURGER, C.J.,and POWELL, J., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 466 U. S. 313. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which BURGER, C.J.,joined, post, p. 466 U. S. 327. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, post, p. 466 U. S. 328. O'CONNOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 466 U. S. 337.

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