Hallinger v. Davis
146 U.S. 314 (1893)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hallinger v. Davis, 146 U.S. 314 (1892)

Hallinger v. Davis

No. 1100

Submitted November 7, 1892

Decided November 28, 1893

146 U.S. 314


A state statute conferring upon one charged with crime the right to waive a trial by jury and to elect to be tried by the court, and conferring power upon the court to try the accused in such case, is not in conflict with the Constitution of the United States.

When a prisoner charged with the crime of murder committed in a state pleads guilty, the proper court of the state may, if its laws permit, proceed to inquire on evidence, without the intervention of a jury, in what degree of murder the accused is guilty, and may find him to be guilty of murder in the first degree, and may thereupon sentence him to death, without thereby violating the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States that no state shall "deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law."

This was a petition to the circuit court for a writ of habeas corpus. The facts were stated by this Court as follows:

On the 30th day of May, A.D. 1892, the appellant, Edward W. Hallinger, presented a petition to the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of New Jersey wherein, and in a copy of the record of the proceedings in the Court of Oyer

Page 146 U. S. 315

and Terminer and General Jail Delivery of the County of Hudson, State of New Jersey, attached to said petition as part thereof, the following facts appear:

Hallinger, the appellant, was on the 14th day of April, 1891, indicted by the grand jury of Hudson County for the murder of one Mary Hallinger. On the 14th day of April, 1891, he pleaded guilty, whereupon the court ordered the said plea of guilty to be held in abeyance subject to said defendant's consultation with counsel, then assigned for the purpose of consultation concerning said plea. On the 17th day of April, A.D. 1891, the defendant and his counsel again appeared and insisted on said plea of guilty, whereupon the said court continued said assignment of counsel, and ordered said defendant to be present on Tuesday, April 28, 1891 at an examination to determine the degree of guilt under said plea to be then and there had by said court. On the 28th day of April, 1891, the court, composed of Knapp and Lippincott, Justices, in the presence of the defendant and his counsel, heard evidence concerning the degree of defendant's guilt, and on the 12th day of May, 1891, the court adjudged the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree and committed him to the custody of the jailer of Hudson County, to be confined in the common jail of said county until Tuesday, the 30th day of June, A.D. 1891, on which day he was condemned to be hanged.

Article I, Section 7, of the Constitution of the State of New Jersey provides:

"The right of a trial by jury shall remain inviolate, but the legislature may authorize the trial of civil suits, when the matter in dispute does not exceed fifty dollars, by a jury of six men."

Section 68 of the Criminal Procedure Act of the State of New Jersey provides:

"All murder which shall be perpetrated by means of poison, or by lying in wait, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or which shall be committed in perpetrating or in attempting to perpetrate any arson, rape, sodomy, robbery, or burglary, shall be deemed murder in the first degree, and all other kinds of murder shall be deemed murder of the second degree, and the jury, before whom any person indicted for murder shall be tried, shall, if they find such person guilty

Page 146 U. S. 316

thereof, designate by their verdict whether it be murder of the first or second degree; but if such person shall be convicted on confession in open court, the court shall proceed, by examination of witnesses, to determine the degree of the crime, and give sentence accordingly."

In his said petition, the defendant alleged that said section 68 of the Criminal Procedure Act of New Jersey is in violation of the Constitution of the United States and of the State of New Jersey, and that his sentence and detention are illegal. He also states that by virtue of the statutes and laws of the State of New Jersey, no right of appeal in murder cases exists, and he has no right to appeal to any higher court in the state to review or annul said illegal judgment and sentence.

On the 30th day of May, 1892, this application for a writ of habeas corpus was by the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of New Jersey refused.

Page 146 U. S. 317

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