SINGER v. UNITED STATES(1965)
Petitioner, a defendant in a federal criminal mail fraud case, claims that he had an absolute right to be tried by a judge alone if he considered such a trial to be to his advantage. Held: Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 23 (a) sets forth a reasonable procedure governing proffered waivers of jury trials. A defendant's only constitutional right concerning the method of trial is to an impartial trial by jury. Although he may waive his right to trial by jury, Patton v. United States, 281 U.S. 276 , there is no constitutional impediment to conditioning a waiver of this right on the consent of the prosecuting attorney and the trial judge when, if either refuses to consent, the result is that the defendant is subject to an impartial trial by jury - the very thing that the Constitution guarantees him. Pp. 24-38.
326 F.2d 132, affirmed.
Sidney Dorfman argued the cause and filed a brief for petitioner.
Beatrice Rosenberg argued the cause for the United States. With her on the brief were Solicitor General Cox, Assistant Attorney General Miller and Sidney M. Glazer.
Briefs of amici curiae were filed by Victor Rabinowitz and Leonard Boudin for Joni Rabinowitz, and by Justin A. Stanley for Nicholas Jacop Uselding.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.
Rule 23 (a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides:
Petitioner was charged in a federal district court with 30 infractions of the mail fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. 1341 (1958 ed.). The gist of the indictment was that he used the mails to dupe amateur songwriters into sending him money for the marketing of their songs. On the opening day of trial petitioner offered in writing to waive a trial by jury "[f]or the purpose of shortening the trial." 1 The trial court was willing to approve the waiver, but the Government refused to give its consent. Petitioner was subsequently convicted by a jury on 29 of the 30 counts and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed. We granted certiorari, 377 U.S. 903 .
Petitioner's argument is that a defendant in a federal criminal case has not only an unconditional constitutional right, guaranteed by Art. III, 2, and the Sixth Amendment, 2 to a trial by jury, but also a correlative right to [380 U.S. 24, 26] have his case decided by a judge alone if he considers such a trial to be to his advantage. He claims that at common law the right to refuse a jury trial preceded the right to demand one, and that both before and at the time our Constitution was adopted criminal defendants in this country had the right to waive a jury trial. Although the Constitution does not in terms give defendants an option between different modes of trial, petitioner argues that the provisions relating to jury trial are for the protection of the accused. Petitioner further urges that since a defendant can waive other constitutional rights without the consent of the Government, he must necessarily have a similar right to waive a jury trial and that the Constitution's guarantee of a fair trial gives defendants the right to safeguard themselves against possible jury prejudice by insisting on a trial before a judge alone. Turning his attention to Rule 23 (a), petitioner claims that the Fifth, Sixth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments are violated by placing conditions on the ability to waive trial by jury.
We have examined petitioner's arguments and find them to be without merit. We can find no evidence that the common law recognized that defendants had the right to choose between court and jury trial. Although instances of waiver of jury trial can be found in certain of the colonies prior to the adoption of the Constitution, they were isolated instances occurring pursuant to colonial "constitutions" or statutes and were clear departures from the common law. There is no indication that the colonists considered the ability to waive a jury trial to be of equal importance to the right to demand one. Having found that the Constitution neither confers nor recognizes a right of criminal defendants to have their cases tried before a judge alone, we also conclude that Rule 23 (a) sets forth a reasonable procedure governing attempted waivers of jury trials. [380 U.S. 24, 27]
English Common Law. The origin of trial by jury in England is not altogether clear. At its inception it was an alternative to one of the older methods of proof - trial by compurgation, ordeal or battle. I Holdsworth, A History of English Law 326 (7th ed. 1956). Soon after the thirteenth century trial by jury had become the principal institution for criminal cases, Jenks, A Short History of English Law 52 (5th ed. 1938); yet, even after the older procedures of compurgation, ordeal and battle had passed into disuse, the defendant technically retained the right to be tried by one of them. Before a defendant could be subjected to jury trial his "consent" was required, but the Englishmen of the period had a concept of "consent" somewhat different from our own. The Statute of Westminster I, 1275, 3 Edw. 1, c. 12, which described defendants who refused to submit to jury trial as "refus[ing] to stand to the Common Law of the Land," marks the beginning of the horrendous practice known as peine forte et dure by which recalcitrant defendants were tortured until death or until they "consented" to a jury trial.
It is significant that defendants who refused to submit to a jury were not entitled to an alternative method of trial, 3 and it was only in 1772 that peine forte et dure was officially abolished in England. By a statute enacted in that year, 12 Geo. 3, c. 20, a defendant who stood mute when charged with a felony was deemed to have pleaded guilty. Not until 1827, long after the adoption of our Constitution, did England provide by statute, 7 & 8 [380 U.S. 24, 28] Geo. 4, c. 28, for the trial of those who stood mute. Even this statute did not give the defendant the right to plead his case before a judge alone, but merely provided that he would be subject to jury trial without his formal consent.
Thus, as late as 1827 the English common law gave criminal defendants no option as to the mode of trial. The closest the common law came to such a procedure was that of the "implied confession," described briefly in 2 Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown, c. 31 (6th ed. 1787), by which defendants accused of minor offenses did not explicitly admit their guilt but threw themselves on the King's mercy and expressed their willingness to submit to a small fine. Despite the "implied confession," the court heard evidence and could discharge the defendant if it found the evidence wanting. Griswold, The Historical Development of Waiver of Jury Trial in Criminal Cases, 20 Va. L. Rev. 655, 660 (1934). It cannot seriously be argued that this obscure and insignificant procedure, having no applicability to serious offenses, establishes the proposition that at common law defendants had the right to choose the method of trial in all criminal cases. On the contrary, "[b]y its intrinsic fairness as contrasted with older modes, and by the favor of the crown and the judges, [trial by jury] grew fast to be regarded as the one regular common-law mode of trial, always to be had when no other was fixed." Thayer, A Preliminary Treatise on Evidence at the Common Law 60 (1898).
The Colonial Experience. The colonies which most freely permitted waiver of jury trial as a matter of course were Massachusetts and Maryland. The "first constitution" of Massachusetts - The Body of Liberties of 1641 - contained as Liberty XXIX the following:
Other possible examples of optional jury trial procedures can be cited in colonial New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. 5 See Griswold, [380 U.S. 24, 31] supra, at 664-667. The most that can be said for these examples is that they are evidence that the colonists believed it was possible to try criminal defendants without a jury. They in no way show that there was any general recognition of a defendant's right to be tried by the court instead of by a jury. Indeed, if there had been recognition of such a right, it would be difficult to understand why Article III and the Sixth Amendment were not drafted in terms which recognized an option.
The Constitution and Its Judicial Interpretation. The proceedings at the Constitutional Convention give little insight into what was meant by the direction in Art. III, 2, that the "Trial of all Crimes . . . shall be by jury." The clause was clearly intended to protect the accused from oppression by the Government, see III Farrand, Records of the Federal Convention 101 (James Wilson), 221-222 (Luther Martin) (1911); but, since the practice of permitting defendants a choice as to the mode of trial was not widespread, it is not surprising that some of the framers apparently believed that the Constitution designated trial by jury as the exclusive method of determining guilt, see The Federalist, No. 83 (Alexander Hamilton) (Cooke ed. 1961); IV Elliot's Debates 145, 171 (James Iredell) (2d ed. 1876); III Elliot's Debates 521 (Edmund Pendleton) (2d ed. 1876).
In no known federal criminal case in the period immediately following the adoption of the Constitution did a defendant claim that he had the right to insist upon a trial without a jury. Indeed, in United States v. Gibert, 25 Fed. Cas. 1287 (No. 15204) (C. C. D. Mass. 1834), Mr. Justice Story, while sitting on circuit, indicated his view that the Constitution made trial by jury the only permissible method of trial. Similar views were expressed by other federal judges. See Ex parte McClusky, 40 F. 71, 74-75 (C. C. D. Ark. 1889) (by implication); United [380 U.S. 24, 32] States v. Taylor, 11 F. 470, 471 (C. C. D. Kan. 1882) (dictum). 6
Although not necessary to the holding in the case, in Thompson v. Utah, 170 U.S. 343 , this Court also expressed a view that the Constitution made jury trial the exclusive method of determining guilt in all federal criminal cases. However, in Schick v. United States, 195 U.S. 65 , the Court decided there was no constitutional requirement that petty offenses be tried by jury. These two decisions were construed by the lower federal courts as establishing a rule that in all but petty offenses jury trial was a constitutional imperative. See Coates v. United States, 290 F. 134 (C. A. 4th Cir. 1923); Blair v. United States, 241 F. 217, 230 (C. A. 9th Cir. 1917); Frank v. United States, 192 F. 864, 867-868 (C. A. 6th [380 U.S. 24, 33] Cir. 1911) (dictum); Low v. United States, 169 F. 86 (C. A. 6th Cir. 1909); Dickinson v. United States, 159 F. 801 (C. A. 1st Cir. 1908), cert. denied, 213 U.S. 92 .
The issue whether a defendant could waive a jury trial in federal criminal cases was finally presented to this Court in Patton v. United States, 281 U.S. 276 . The Patton case came before the Court on a certified question from the Eighth Circuit. The wording of the question, id., at 287, is significant:
Thus, there is no federally recognized right to a criminal trial before a judge sitting alone, but a defendant can, as was held in Patton, in some instances waive his right to a trial by jury. The question remains whether the effectiveness of this waiver can be conditioned upon the consent of the prosecuting attorney and the trial judge.
The ability to waive a constitutional right does not ordinarily carry with it the right to insist upon the opposite [380 U.S. 24, 35] of that right. For example, although a defendant can, under some circumstances, waive his constitutional right to a public trial, he has no absolute right to compel a private trial, see United States v. Kobli, 172 F.2d 919, 924 (C. A. 3d Cir. 1949) (by implication); although he can waive his right to be tried in the State and district where the crime was committed, he cannot in all cases compel transfer of the case to another district, see Platt v. Minnesota Mining & Mfg. Co., 376 U.S. 240, 245 ; Kersten v. United States, 161 F.2d 337, 339 (C. A. 10th Cir. 1947), cert. denied, 331 U.S. 851 ; and although he can waive his right to be confronted by the witnesses against him, it has never been seriously suggested that he can thereby compel the Government to try the case by stipulation. Moreover, it has long been accepted that the waiver of constitutional rights can be subjected to reasonable procedural regulations: Rule 7 (b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure sets forth the procedure to be followed for waiver of the right to be prosecuted by indictment; Rule 20 describes the procedure for waiver of the right to be tried in the district in which an indictment or information is pending against a defendant; and Rule 44 deals with the waiver of the right to counsel.
Trial by jury has been established by the Constitution as the "normal and . . . preferable mode of disposing of issues of fact in criminal cases." Patton v. United States, 281 U.S. 276, 312 . As with any mode that might be devised to determine guilt, trial by jury has its weaknesses and the potential for misuse. However, the mode itself has been surrounded with safeguards to make it as fair as possible - for example, venue can be changed when there is a well-grounded fear of jury prejudice, Rule 21 (a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and prospective jurors are subject to voir dire examination, to challenge for cause, and to peremptory challenge, Rule 24 (a) and (b). [380 U.S. 24, 36]
In light of the Constitution's emphasis on jury trial, we find it difficult to understand how the petitioner can submit the bald proposition that to compel a defendant in a criminal case to undergo a jury trial against his will is contrary to his right to a fair trial or to due process. A defendant's only constitutional right concerning the method of trial is to an impartial trial by jury. We find no constitutional impediment to conditioning a waiver of this right on the consent of the prosecuting attorney and the trial judge when, if either refuses to consent, the result is simply that the defendant is subject to an impartial trial by jury - the very thing that the Constitution guarantees him. The Constitution recognizes an adversary system as the proper method of determining guilt, and the Government, as a litigant, has a legitimate interest in seeing that cases in which it believes a conviction is warranted are tried before the tribunal which the Constitution regards as most likely to produce a fair result. This recognition of the Government's interest as a litigant has an analogy in Rule 24 (b) of the federal rules, which permits the Government to challenge jurors peremptorily.
We are aware that the States have adopted a variety of procedures relating to the waiver of jury trials in state criminal cases. Some have made waiver contingent on approval by the prosecutor, e. g., California (Cal. Const. Art. I, 7), Indiana (Ind. Ann. Stat. 9-1803 (1956 Repl. vol.), Alldredge v. Indiana, 239 Ind. 256, 156 N. E. 2d 888 (1959)), and Virginia (Va. Const. 8, Va. Code Ann. 19.1-192 (1950 Repl. vol.), Boaze v. Commonwealth, 165 Va. 786, 183 S. E. 263 (1936)). Others, while not giving the prosecutor a voice, have made court approval a prerequisite for waiver, e. g., Georgia (Ga. Code Ann. 102-106 (1955), Palmer v. State, 195 Ga. 661, 25 S. E. 2d 295 (1943)), and Washington (Wash. Rev. Code 10.01.060 (1963 Supp.)). Still others have provided [380 U.S. 24, 37] that the question of waiver is a matter solely for the defendant's informed decision, e. g., Connecticut (Conn. Gen. Stat. Rev. 54-82 (1958)), and Illinois (Ill. Ann. Stat. c. 38, 103-6 (Smith-Hurd ed. 1964), Illinois v. Spegal, 5 Ill. 2d 211, 125 N. E. 2d 468 (1955)). However, the framers of the federal rules were aware of possible alternatives when they recommended the present rule to this Court, see Orfield, Trial by Jury in Federal Criminal Procedure, 1962 Duke L. J. 29, 69-72; this Court promulgated the rule as recommended; and Congress can be deemed to have adopted it, 18 U.S.C. 3771 (1958 ed.).
In upholding the validity of Rule 23 (a), we reiterate the sentiment expressed in Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78, 88 , that the government attorney in a criminal prosecution is not an ordinary party to a controversy, but a "servant of the law" with a "twofold aim . . . that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer." It was in light of this concept of the role of prosecutor that Rule 23 (a) was framed, and we are confident that it is in this light that it will continue to be invoked by government attorneys. Because of this confidence in the integrity of the federal prosecutor, Rule 23 (a) does not require that the Government articulate its reasons for demanding a jury trial at the time it refuses to consent to a defendant's proffered waiver. Nor should we assume that federal prosecutors would demand a jury trial for an ignoble purpose. We need not determine in this case whether there might be some circumstances where a defendant's reasons for wanting to be tried by a judge alone are so compelling that the Government's insistence on trial by jury would result in the denial to a defendant of an impartial trial. Petitioner argues that there might arise situations where "passion, prejudice . . . public feeling" 7 or some other [380 U.S. 24, 38] factor may render impossible or unlikely an impartial trial by jury. However, since petitioner gave no reason for wanting to forgo jury trial other than to save time, this is not such a case, and petitioner does not claim that it is.
Petitioner has also raised questions involving the instructions to the jury and alleged misconduct by the prosecuting attorney. We have examined the record and find that the jury was adequately instructed. In any event, no timely objection was made as required by Rule 30 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and, in the absence of plain error, the Court of Appeals correctly affirmed the judgment of the trial court. Similarly without merit are petitioner's specifications of misconduct by the prosecuting attorney during the trial, since the record reveals that the misconduct, if any, was neither purposeful nor flagrant, and the trial court's admonitions to the jury seem to have been well designed to cure whatever prejudicial impact some of the prosecutor's remarks may have had in this case.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is
[ Footnote 2 ] Art. III, 2, of the United States Constitution provides: "The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed." The Sixth Amendment provides: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."
[ Footnote 3 ] It appears that many hardy defendants were willing to be tortured to death rather than submit to a jury trial, not because of any inherent distrust of the jury system but because of their desire to avoid a conviction and thereby prevent forfeiture of their lands and the resultant hardships for their descendants. Cf. I Holdsworth, supra, at 326.
[ Footnote 4 ] Grinnell, supra, at 33.
[ Footnote 5 ] The Pennsylvania case of Proprietor v. Wilkins, Pennypacker's Pennsylvania Colonial Cases 88 (1892), decided in 1685-1686, is of interest in that the court tried a fornication case without a jury over the objection of the prosecution. The punishment involved in the case was a 10-pound fine. The case is, therefore, little authority for the proposition that defendants had the right to waive jury trials in all cases.
[ Footnote 6 ] In construing their own constitutions, which generally had clauses designed to preserve the common-law right to trial by jury, the state courts took a similarly limited view of the ability of a defendant to waive jury trial. Some state courts ruled that in the absence of a statute there could be no waiver of jury trial. See, e. g., Wilson v. State, 16 Ark. 601 (1855); State v. Maine, 27 Conn. 281 (1858); People v. Smith, 9 Mich. 193 (1861). Several other courts determined that the State could by statute prohibit waiver of jury trials. See, e. g., Arnold v. Nebraska, 38 Neb. 752, 57 N. W. 378 (1894); In re McQuown, 19 Okla. 347, 91 P. 689 (1907); State v. Battey, 32 R. I. 475, 80 A. 10 (1911); State v. Hirsch, 91 Vt. 330, 100 A. 877 (1917); Mays v. Commonwealth, 82 Va. 550 (1886). Some state courts interpreted their constitutions to say that under no circumstances could waiver be allowed. See, e. g., State v. Holt, 90 N.C. 749 (1884); Williams v. State, 12 Ohio St. 622 (1861). Several courts, of course, held that waiver of a jury was permissible, even in the absence of enabling legislation. See, e. g., State ex rel. Warner v. Baer, 103 Ohio St. 585, 134 N. E. 786 (1921) (overruling Williams v. State, supra); Ex parte King, 42 Okla. Cr. 46, 274 P. 682 (Okla. Crim. App. 1929). In Hallinger v. Davis, 146 U.S. 314 , this Court held that a state statute permitting waiver of jury trial in criminal cases did not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.