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2, of the Constitution of Missouri, which took effect Nov. 30, 1875, that law was abrogated, and for this reason be could be tried for murder in the first degree, notwithstanding his conviction and sentence for murder in the second degree.
As after the commission of the crime for which he was indicted this new constitution was adopted, and, as it is construed by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, it changes the law as it then stood, to his disadvantage, the jurisdiction of this court is invoked on the ground that, as to this case, and as so construed, it is an er post facto law, within the meaning of sect. 10, art. 1, of the Constitution of the United States.
That it may be clearly seen what the Supreme Court of Missouri decided on this subject and what consideration they gave it, we extract here all that is said in their opinion about it.
“ There is nothing in the point," they say, “ that after an accepted plea of guilty of murder of the second degree the defendant could not be put upon trial for murder of the first degree. We shall, on that proposition, accept wbat is said by the Court of Appeals in its opinion in this cause."
What that court said on this subject is as follows:
“ The theory of counsel for defendant that a plea of guilty of murder in the second degree, regularly entered and received, precludes the State from afterwards prosecuting the defendant for murder in the first degree, is inconsistent with the ruling of the Supreme Court in Stite v. Kring (71 Mo. 551), and in State v. Stephens (id. 535). The declarations of defendant that he would stand upon his plea already entered were all accompanied with a condition that the court should sentence him for a term not to exceed ten years, in accordance with an alleged agreement with the prosecuting attorney, which the court would not recognize. The prisoner did not stand upon his plea of guilty of murder in the second degree; he must, therefore, be taken to have withdrawn that plea, and, as he refused to plead, the court properly directed the plea of not guilty of murder in the first degree to be entered.
Formerly it was held in Missouri (State v. Ross, 29 Mo. 32) that, when a conviction is had of murder in the second degree on an indictment charging murder in the first degree, if this be set aside, the defendant cannot again be tried for mur
der in the first degree. A change introduced by sect. 23 of art. 2 of the Constitution of 1875 has abrogated this rule. On the oral argument something was said by counsel for the defendant to the effect that under the old rule defendant could not be put on his trial for murder in the first degree, and that he could not be affected by the change of the constitutional provision, the crime having been committed whilst the old constitution was in force. There is, however, nothing in this ; this change is a change not in crimes, but in criminal procedure, and such changes are not ex post facto. Gut v. State, 9 Wall. 35; Cummings v. Missouri, 4 id. 326."
We have bere a distinct admission that by the law of Missouri, as it stood at the time of the homicide, in consequence of this conviction of the defendant of the crime of murder in the second degree, though that conviction be set aside, he could not be again tried for murder in the first degree. And that, but for the change in the Constitution of the State, such would be the law applicable to his case. W bien the attention of the court is called to the proposition that if such effect is given to the change of the Constitution, it would, in this case, be liable to objection as an ex post facto law, the only answer is, that there is nothing in it, as the change is simply in a matter of procedure.
Whatever may be the essential nature of the change, it is one which, to the defendant, involves the difference between life and death, and the retroactive character of the change cannot be denied.
It is to be observed that the force of the argument for acquittal does not stand upon defendant's plea, nor upon its acceptance by the State's attorney, nor the consent of the court; but it stands upon the judgment and sentence of the court by which he is convicted of murder in the second degree, and sentence pronounced according to the law of that guilt, which was by operation of the same law an acquittal of the other and higher crime of murder charged in the same indictment.
It is sufficient for this case that the Supreme Court of Missouri, in the opinion we are examining, says it was so, and cites as authority for it the case of State v. Ro88, 29 Mo. 32, in the same court; but counsel for plaintiff in error cites to the same
effect the cases of the State v. Ball, 27 Mo. 324; State v. Smith, 53 id. 139.
Blackstone says: “ The plea of autrefoits convict, or a former conviction for the same identical crime, though no judgment was ever given, or, perhaps, will be (being suspended by benefit of clergy or other causes), is a good plea in bar to an indictment. And this depends upon the same principle as the former (that is, autrefoits acquit), that no man ought to be twice brought in danger of his life for one and the same crime. Hereupon it has been held that a conviction of manslaughter, on an appeal or indictment, is a bar even in another appeal, and much more in an indictment for murder; for the fact prosecuted is the same in both, though the offences differ in coloring and degree.” Bla. Com. Book 4, 336. See State v. Norvell, 2 Yerg. (Tenn.) 24; Campbell v. The State, 9 id. 333, 337.
This law, in force at the date of the homicide for which Kring is now under sentence of death, was changed by the State of Missouri between that time and his trial so as to deprive him of its benefit, to which he would otherwise have been entitled, and we are called on to decide whether in this respect, and as applied by the court to this case, it is an ex post facto law within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States.
There is no question of the right of the State of Missouri, either by her fundamental law or by an ordinary act of legislation, to abolish this rule, and that it is a valid law as to all offences committed after its enactment. The question here is, Does it deprive the defendant of any right of defence which the law gave him when the act was committed so that as to that offence it is ex post facto ?
This term necessarily implies a fact or act done, after which the law in question is passed. Whether it is ex post facto or not relates, in criminal cases, to which alone the phrase applies, to the time at which the offence charged was committed. If the law complained of was passed before the commission of the act with which the prisoner is charged, it cannot, as to that offence, be an ex post facto law. If passed after the commission of the offence, it is as to that ex post facto, though whether of the class forbidden by the Constitution may depend on other
matters. But so far as this depends on the time of its enactment, it has reference solely to the date at which the offence was committed to which the new law is sought to be applied. No other time or transaction but this has been in any adjudged case held to govern its ex post facto character.
In the case before us an argument is made founded on a change in this rule. It is said the new law in Missouri is not ex post facto, because it was in force when the plea and judgment were entered of guilty of murder in the second degree; thus making its character as an ex post facto law to depend, not upon the date of its passage as regards the commission of the offence, but as regards the time of pleading guilty. That, as the new law was in force when the conviction on that plea was had, its effect as to future trials in that case must be governed by that law. But this is begging the whole question ; for if it was as to the offence charged an ex post facto law, within the true meaning of that phrase, it was not in force and could not be applied to the case, and the effect of that plea and conviction must be decided as though no such change in the law had been made.
Such, however, is not the ground on which the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals placed their judgment.
“ There is nothing,” say they, “in this; the change is a change not in crimes, but in criminal procedure, and such changes are not ex post facto.”
Before proceeding to examine this proposition, it will be well to get some clear perception of the purpose of the convention which framed the Constitution in declaring that no State shall pass any ex post facto law.
It was one of the objections most seriously urged against the new constitution by those who opposed its ratification by the States, that it contained no formal Bill of Rights. Federalist, No. Ixxxiv. And the State of Virginia accompanied her ratification by the recommendation of an amendment embodying such a bill. 3 Elliot's Debates, 661.
The feeling on this subject led to the adoption of the first ten amendments to that instrument at one time, shortly after the government was organized. These are all designed to operate as restraints on the general government, and most of
them for the protection of private rights of persons and property. Notwithstanding this reproach, however, there are many provisions in the original instrument of this latter character, among which is the one now under consideration.
So much importance did the convention attach to it, that it is found twice in the Constitution, first as a restraint upon the power of the general government, and afterwards as a limitation upon the legislative power of the States. This latter is the first clause of section 10 of article 1, and its connection with other language in the same section may serve to illustrate its meaning. “No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation ; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal ; coin Money ; emit Bills of Credit; make anything but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts ; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts ; or grant any Title of Nobility.”
It will be observed that here are grouped contiguously a prohibition against three distinct classes of retrospective laws; namely, bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and laws impairing the obligation of contracts. As the clause was first adopted, the words concerning contracts were not in it, because it was supposed that the phrase ex post facto law included laws concerning contracts as well as others. But it was ascertained before the completion of the instrument that this was a phrase which, in English jurisprudence, had acquired a signification limited to the criminal law, and the words “or law impairing the obligation of contracts” were added to give security to rights resting in contracts. 2 Bancroft's History of the Constitution, 213.
Sir Thomas Tomlin, in that magazine of learning, the English edition of 1835 of his Law Dictionary, says:
“ Ex post facto is a term used in the law, signifying something done after, or arising from or to affect another thing that was committed before."
“ An ex post facto law is one which operates upon a subject not liable to it at the time the law was made.”
The first case in which this court was called upon to construe this provision of the Constitution was that of Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386, decided in 1798. The opinion was delivered