Murphy v. Massachusetts,
177 U.S. 155 (1900)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Murphy v. Massachusetts, 177 U.S. 155 (1900)

Murphy v. Massachusetts

No. 480

Argued February 28, March 1, 1900

Decided April 3, 1900

177 U.S. 155


Murphy was tried in a state court of Massachusetts on an indictment charging him with embezzlement, was convicted, and was sentenced to imprisonment for a term, one day of which was to be in solitary confinement and the rest at hard labor. He remained in confinement for nearly three years, and then sued out a writ of error, and the judgment was reversed on the ground that the sentence was unconstitutional. The case was then remanded to the court below to have him resentenced, which was done. Before imposing the new sentence, the court said that as he had already suffered one term of solitary confinement, the court would not impose another if a written waiver by the prisoner of the provision therefor were filed. He declined to file such a waiver, and the sentence was accordingly imposed. Upon his taking steps to have the sentence set aside, held that his contention in that respect was unavailing.

Plaintiff in error, a citizen of the commonwealth of Massachusetts and of the United States, was tried in the Superior Court of Massachusetts on an indictment which charged him in sixty-four counts with the embezzlement of different sums of money on different days between July 19, 1892, and November 29, 1893, contrary to the provisions of section forty of chapter 203 of the Public Statutes of Massachusetts; was found guilty, and on May 29, 1896, was sentenced under chapter 504 of the Statutes of 1895 to imprisonment in the state's prison of the commonwealth at Boston for the term of not less than ten nor more than fifteen years, one day thereof to be in solitary confinement and the residue at hard labor, and on that day, in execution of said sentence, was committed to that prison. He remained in solitary confinement for one day and in the prison continuously from May 29, 1896, to January 7, 1899.

Page 177 U. S. 156

On June 8, 1898, he sued a writ of error out of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, and on January 6, 1899, that court reversed the sentence of the superior court on the ground that the statute of 1895, c. 504, was unconstitutional so far as it related to past offenses, and remanded the case to the superior court under Public Statutes, c. 187, § 13, to be resentenced according to the law as it was when the offenses were committed, and before the statute under which he had been sentenced took effect. 172 Mass. 264.

January 7, 1899, he was brought before the superior court pursuant to that direction, and resentenced according to the provisions of Public Statutes, c. 203, § 20, and Public Statutes, c. 215, § 23, the sentence being to the state's prison for nine years, ten months, and twenty-one days, the first day thereof to be in solitary confinement and the residue at hard labor. Before imposing this sentence the court stated to Murphy's attorney that as Murphy had already suffered one term of solitary confinement for the offenses for which he was now to be sentenced, it would prefer not to sentence to solitary confinement, and that it would not do so, if a written waiver by the prisoner of the provision therefor were filed; but the attorney did not feel justified in filing such a waiver. Murphy duly excepted to the sentence last imposed, and requested that all his rights be reserved. Exceptions having been allowed, the case was carried on error to the Supreme Judicial Court, which overruled them. 54 N.E. 860. This writ of error was then sued out.

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