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Beazell v. Ohio

U.S.
Nov 16, 1925
269 U.S. 167 (1925)

Summary

holding that the former law afforded jointly indicted defendants separate trials as a matter of right, but the new law only afforded separate trials subject to the trial judge's discretion; held, no ex post facto violation because the law did not affect a substantial right of the accused

Summary of this case from State ex Rel. Olivieri v. State

Opinion

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF OHIO.

Nos. 247, 248.

Motions to dismiss or affirm submitted October 5, 1925. Decided November 16, 1925.

1. The constitutional provision (Art. I. Sec. 10) forbidding the States to pass ex post facto laws was intended to secure substantial personal rights against arbitrary and oppressive legislation, and not to limit the legislative control of remedies and modes of procedure which do not affect matters of substance. P. 171. 2. An Ohio law providing that when two or more persons were jointly indicted for a felony, on application to the court each should be tried separately, was amended so as to require a joint trial, unless the court should order otherwise for good cause shown. Held that the amendment was not an ex post facto law, within the constitutional restriction, as applied to persons who were indicted after, for an offense alleged to have been committed before, the date of the amendment. P. 170. 111 Ohio St. 838; Id. 839, affirmed.

ERROR to judgments of the Supreme Court of Ohio affirming convictions of embezzlement. The cases are disposed of here on motions to dismiss or affirm.

Messrs. John Wilson Brown, Charles S. Bell, Nelson Schwab, and Louis Schneider, for the State of Ohio.

Messrs. Province M. Pogue, Harry M. Hoffheimer and Thomas L. Pogue, for Beazell.

Mr. Frank F. Dinsmore, for Chatfield.

The following authorities were cited and relied upon in the arguments for plaintiffs in error. Bergin v. State, 31 Ohio St. 113; 12 C.J. § 803; Thompson v. Utah, 170 U.S. 343; Duncan v. Missouri, 152 U.S. 378; Ex parte Medley, 134 U.S. 160; Kring v. Missouri, 107 U.S. 221; Mallet v. North Carolina, 181 U.S. 589; Society v. Wheeler, 2 Gall. 139; State v. Morrow, 90 Ohio St. 202; Crain v. United States, 162 U.S. 624; Cooley's Const. Lim'ns. 373; Frisby v. United States, 13 App.D.C. 22; State v. Barlow, 70 Ohio St. 363; Hopt v. Utah, 110 U.S. 574.


Plaintiffs in error were jointly indicted in the Court of Common Pleas of Hamilton County, Ohio, for the crime of embezzlement, a felony. On February 13, 1923, the date of the offense as charged, Ohio General Code, § 13,677, provided: "When two or more persons are jointly indicted for a felony, on application to the court for that purpose, each shall be separately tried." In April of the same year, before the indictment, which was returned on October 25, this section was amended (110 Ohio Laws, 301) so as to provide:

"When two or more persons are jointly indicted for a felony, except a capital offense, they shall be tried jointly, unless the court for good cause shown, on application therefor by the prosecuting attorney, or one or more of said defendants order that one or more of said defendants shall be tried separately."

By another section, the amended Act was made applicable to trials for offenses committed before the amendment.

The defendants severally made motions for separate trials on the ground that their defenses would be different; that each would be prejudiced by the introduction of evidence admissible against his co-defendant, but inadmissible as to him; and that they were entitled to separate trials as a matter of right, specifically charging that, as applied to their own indictment and trial, "the amendment to the Statutes of Ohio making the granting of said application for a separate trial discretionary with the trial court, is an ex post facto law within the restrictions imposed by Article 1, Section 10 of the Constitution of the United States," which provides that "No State shall . . . pass any . . . ex post facto Law."

Both motions were denied; the joint trial and conviction of the defendants followed; and in proceedings duly had in which the constitutional question was raised, their conviction was sustained by the Supreme Court of Ohio. The case comes before this court on motions to dismiss the writs of error or to affirm the judgment below.

It is settled, by decisions of this Court so well known that their citation may be dispensed with, that any statute which punishes as a crime an act previously committed, which was innocent when done; which makes more burdensome the punishment for a crime, after its commission, or which deprives one charged with crime of any defense available according to law at the time when the act was committed, is prohibited as ex post facto. The constitutional prohibition and the judicial interpretation of it rest upon the notion that laws, whatever their form, which purport to make innocent acts criminal after the event, or to aggravate an offense, are harsh and oppressive, and that the criminal quality attributable to an act, either by the legal definition of the offense or by the nature or amount of the punishment imposed for its commission, should not be altered by legislative enactment, after the fact, to the disadvantage of the accused.

But the statute of Ohio here drawn in question affects only the manner in which the trial of those jointly accused shall be conducted. It does not deprive the plaintiffs in error of any defense previously available, nor affect the criminal quality of the act charged. Nor does it change the legal definition of the offense or the punishment to be meted out. The quantum and kind of proof required to establish guilt, and all questions which may be considered by the court and jury in determining guilt or innocence, remain the same.

Expressions are to be found in earlier judicial opinions to the effect that the constitutional limitation may be transgressed by alterations in the rules of evidence or procedure. See Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386, 390; Cummings v. State of Missouri, 4 Wall. 277, 326; Kring v. Missouri, 107 U.S. 221, 228, 232. And there may be procedural changes which operate to deny to the accused a defense available under the laws in force at the time of the commission of his offense, or which otherwise affect him in such a harsh and arbitrary manner as to fall within the constitutional prohibition. Kring v. Missouri, 107 U.S. 221; Thompson v. Utah, 170 U.S. 343. But it is now well settled that statutory changes in the mode of trial or the rules of evidence, which do not deprive the accused of a defense and which operate only in a limited and unsubstantial manner to his disadvantage, are not prohibited. A statute which, after indictment, enlarges the class of persons who may be witnesses at the trial, by removing the disqualification of persons convicted of felony, is not an ex post facto law. Hopt. v. Utah, 110 U.S. 574. Nor is a statute which changes the rules of evidence after the indictment so as to render admissible against the accused evidence previously held inadmissible. Thompson v. Missouri, 171 U.S. 380; or which changes the place of trial, Gut v. The State, 9 Wall. 35; or which abolishes a court for hearing criminal appeals, creating a new one in its stead. See Duncan v. Missouri, 152 U.S. 377, 382.

Just what alterations of procedure will be held to be of sufficient moment to transgress the constitutional prohibition cannot be embraced within a formula or stated in a general proposition. The distinction is one of degree. But the constitutional provision was intended to secure substantial personal rights against arbitrary and oppressive legislation, see Malloy v. South Carolina, 237 U.S. 180, 183, and not to limit the legislative control of remedies and modes of procedure which do not affect matters of substance. See Gibson v. Mississippi, 162 U.S. 565, 590; Thompson v. Missouri, supra, 386; Mallett v. North Carolina, 181 U.S. 589, 597.

The legislation here concerned restored a mode of trial deemed appropriate at common law, with discretionary power in the court to direct separate trials. We do not regard it as harsh or oppressive as applied to the plaintiffs in error, or as affecting any right or immunity more substantial than did the statute which changed the qualification of jurors, upheld in Gibson v. Mississippi, supra; or the statute which granted to the State an appeal from an intermediate appellate court, upheld in Mallett v. North Carolina, supra. Obviously the statute here is less burdensome to the accused than those involved in Hopt v. Utah, supra, and Thompson v. Missouri, supra.

The judgment of the Supreme Court of Ohio is

Affirmed.


Summaries of

Beazell v. Ohio

U.S.
Nov 16, 1925
269 U.S. 167 (1925)

holding that the former law afforded jointly indicted defendants separate trials as a matter of right, but the new law only afforded separate trials subject to the trial judge's discretion; held, no ex post facto violation because the law did not affect a substantial right of the accused

Summary of this case from State ex Rel. Olivieri v. State

holding that one way in which the ex post facto provision of the Constitution can be violated is by applying a law that makes more burdensome the punishment of a crime after its commission

Summary of this case from State v. Reyes

In Beazell v. Ohio, 269 U.S. 167 (1925), we made it clear that the question whether a particular procedural change has a sufficiently drastic impact on a defendant to be characterized as "substantial" is a matter of degree.

Summary of this case from Collins v. Youngblood

In Beazell, supra, we said that the constitutional prohibition is addressed to laws, "whatever their form," which make innocent acts criminal, alter the nature of the offense, or increase the punishment.

Summary of this case from Collins v. Youngblood

In Beazell v. Ohio, 269 U.S. 167, 169, 46 S.Ct. 68 (1925), the Supreme Court explained that the Ex Post Facto Clause prohibits the application of "any statute which punishes as crime an act previously committed, which was innocent when done, which makes more burdensome the punishment for a crime, after its commission, or which deprives one charged with crime of any defense available according to law at the time when the act was committed....

Summary of this case from Kurzawa v. Jordan

In Beazell v. Ohio, 269 U.S. 167, 170 (1925), the Court retreated somewhat from any implication in Thompson that changes in procedure were generally subject to ex post facto scrutiny.

Summary of this case from Johnson v. Gomez

In Beazell v. Ohio, 269 U.S. 167, 169, 46 S.Ct. 68, 70 L.Ed. 216 (1925), for example, the Court observed that the ex post facto clause prohibits any statute "which makes more burdensome the punishment for a crime, after its commission," and in Weaver v. Graham, 450 U.S. 24, 30-31, 101 S.Ct. 960, 965, 67 L.Ed.2d 17 (1981), the Court said the clause prohibits application of a criminal statute that is "both retrospective and more onerous than the law in effect on the date of the offense" (footnote omitted).

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Juvenile Male

In Beazell, 269 U.S. at 170-71, 46 S.Ct. at 68-69, the court noted "statutory changes in the mode of trial or the rules of evidence, which do not deprive the accused of a defense and which operate only in a limited and unsubstantial manner to his disadvantage" are permissible.

Summary of this case from United States v. Prickett

limiting right to severance of co-defendants

Summary of this case from United States v. Stratton

In Beazell, for example, the Court stated that "[e]xpressions are to be found in earlier judicial opinions to the effect that the [ ex post facto clause] may be transgressed by alterations in the rules of evidence or procedure."

Summary of this case from United States v. Affleck

In Beazell v. Ohio, 269 U.S. 167, 46 S.Ct. 68, 70 L.Ed. 216 (1925), the Court upheld retroactive application of a statutory amendment eliminating an earlier prohibition against joint trials, despite the contentions of the defendants in those cases that they were thereby prejudiced.

Summary of this case from United States v. Cirrincione

validating retrospective limitation on right of jointly-indicted defendants to receive separate trials

Summary of this case from United States v. Kowal

In Beazell v. Ohio, 269 U.S. 167, 170 (1925), the Court stated, "But it is now well settled that statutory changes in the mode of trial or the rules of evidence, which do not deprive the accused of a defense and which operate only in a limited and unsubstantial manner to his disadvantage, are not prohibited.

Summary of this case from State v. Pruitt

In Beazell v. Ohio, 269 U.S. 167, 170, 46 S.Ct. 68, 70 L.Ed. 216 (1925), the Court stated, "But it is now well settled that statutory changes in the mode of trial or the rules of evidence, which do not deprive the accused of a defense and which operate only in a limited and unsubstantial manner to his disadvantage, are not prohibited.

Summary of this case from State v. Pruitt

noting that the ex post facto clause prohibits "any statute which . . . makes more burdensome the punishment for a crime, after its commission, or which deprives one charged with crime of any defense available according to law at the time when the act was committed"

Summary of this case from Public Safety v. Demby

In Beazell v. Ohio, 269 U.S. 167, 169-70, 70 L.Ed. 216, 217 (1925), the United States Supreme Court stated that "any statute... which deprives one charged with crime of any defense available according to the law at the time when the act was committed, is prohibited as ex post facto."

Summary of this case from State v. Robinson

In Beazell v. Ohio, 269 U.S. 167, 46 S.Ct. 68, 70 L.Ed. 216, the United States Supreme Court dealt with a change in the law which resulted in joint trials of defendants who would otherwise have been entitled to separate trials.

Summary of this case from State v. Maresca

In Beazell v. Ohio (1925), 269 U.S. 167, 46 S.Ct. 68, the United States Supreme Court stated that "any statute which punishes as a crime an act previously committed, which was innocent when done, which makes more burdensome the punishment for a crime, after its commission * * * is prohibited as ex post facto."

Summary of this case from Borromeo v. State Medical Board of Ohio

In Beazell, the defendants appealed from application of an Ohio statute that was amended after the date of their offense but before the defendants were jointly indicted.

Summary of this case from State v. Cookman

In Beazell, supra, we said that the constitutional prohibition is addressed to laws, `whatever their form,' which make innocent acts criminal, alter the nature of the offense, or increase the punishment.

Summary of this case from In re Arafiles

In Beazell v. Ohio (1925) 269 U.S. 167 [70 L.Ed. 216, 46 S.Ct. 68], the United States Supreme Court set forth the principles applicable to the prohibition against ex post facto laws.

Summary of this case from People v. Vega

In Beazell v. Ohio, 269 U.S. 167, 46 S.Ct. 68, 70 L.Ed. 216 (1925), the Court explained the purpose of the prohibition: "[The constitutional prohibition against ex post facto laws] was intended to secure substantial personal rights against arbitrary and oppressive legislation, and not to limit the legislative control of remedies and modes of procedure which do not affect matters of substance."

Summary of this case from State v. Weinbrenner

In Beazell v Ohio (269 U.S. 167, 170), which involved a statutory change making it more difficult for two persons jointly indicted to receive separate trials, the Supreme Court held that: "it is now well settled that statutory changes in the mode of trial or the rules of evidence, which do not deprive the accused of a defense and which operate only in a limited and unsubstantial manner to his disadvantage, are not prohibited."

Summary of this case from People v. Mandel

In Beazell, supra, we said that the constitutional prohibition is addressed to laws, "whatever their form," which make innocent acts criminal, alter the nature of the offense, or increase the punishment.

Summary of this case from Williams v. State Parole Bd.

In Beazell v. Ohio, supra, 269 U.S. at 170, 46 S.Ct. at 69, 70 L.Ed. at 217, for example, the Court stated that statutory alterations do not fall within the ex post facto ban if they pertain to the mode of trial or the rules of evidence, do not deprive the accused of a defense, and operate only in a limited manner and insubstantial to his disadvantage.

Summary of this case from State v. Humanik
Case details for

Beazell v. Ohio

Case Details

Full title:BEAZELL v . OHIO ET AL. CHATFIELD v . OHIO ET AL

Court:U.S.

Date published: Nov 16, 1925

Citations

269 U.S. 167 (1925)
46 S. Ct. 68

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