Texas v. McCullough
Annotate this Case
475 U.S. 134 (1986)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Texas v. McCullough, 475 U.S. 134 (1986)
Texas v. McCullough
Argued December 10, 1985
Decided February 26, 1986
475 U.S. 134
Respondent was tried before a jury in a Texas District Court and convicted of murder. He elected to be sentenced by the jury, as was his right under Texas law, and the jury imposed a 20-year sentence. The trial judge then granted respondent's motion for a new trial on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct. Respondent was retried before a jury, with the same trial judge presiding, and again was found guilty. This time he elected to have the judge fix his sentence, and she imposed a 50-year sentence. To justify the longer sentence, the judge entered the following findings of fact: the testimony of two state witnesses who had not testified at the first trial added to the credibility of the State's key witness and detracted from the credibility of respondent and a defense witness; the two new witnesses' testimony directly implicated respondent in the commission of the murder and shed new light upon his life and conduct; and it was learned for the first time on retrial that respondent had been released from prison only four months before the murder. The Texas Court of Appeals reversed and sentenced respondent to 20 years' imprisonment, considering itself bound by North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U. S. 711, wherein it was held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prevented increased sentences on retrial when the increase was motivated by the sentencing judge's vindictiveness, and that, to show the absence of vindictiveness, the reasons for imposing the increased sentence must affirmatively appear. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, while holding that, as a matter of procedure, the case should have been remanded to the trial judge for resentencing, also held that, under Pearce, vindictiveness must be presumed even though a jury had fixed punishment at the first trial and a judge had fixed it at the second trial.
Held: The Due Process Clause was not violated by the trial judge's imposition of a greater sentence on retrial. Pp. 475 U. S. 137-144.
(a) The facts of this case provide no basis for a Pearce presumption of vindictiveness. In contrast to Pearce, respondent's second trial came about because the trial judge herself concluded that the prosecutor's misconduct required it. Granting respondent's motion for a new trial hardly suggests any vindictiveness on the judge's part toward him. The presumption is also inapplicable because different sentencers assessed the
varying sentences, the second sentencer providing an on-the-record, logical, nonvindictive reason for the longer sentence. Pp. 475 U. S. 137-140.
(b) Even if the Pearce presumption were to apply here, the trial judge's findings on imposing the longer sentence overcame that presumption. Those findings clearly constituted "objective information justifying the increased sentence," United States v. Goodwin, 457 U. S. 368, 457 U. S. 375. Pp. 475 U. S. 141-144.
720 S.W.2d 89, reversed and remanded.
BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 475 U. S. 144. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BLACKMUN and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 475 U. S. 145.