Moore v. Illinois
Decided on June 29, 1972; 408 US 786


 The ACLU sides with convicted shotgun murderer by challenging his death penalty sentence

I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Criminal Justice (procedure), 8th Amendment, 14th Amendment


B. Legal Questions Presented:

  1. Is the prosecution required to disclose all evidence obtained?
  2. Was the admission into evidence of a shotgun that was not the weapon a violation of due process?
  3. Can prosecution release venires for voicing opposition to the death penalty?
II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

Petitioner Moore was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for the shotgun slaying of a bartender in Lansing, Illinois. He claimed that he was denied a fair trial and due process because the State failed to disclose several items of evidence helpful to the defense, it failed to correct false testimony, and it succeeded in introducing into evidence a shotgun that was not used as the murder weapon. Moore also attacked the imposition of the death penalty for noncompliance with the standards of Witherspoon v. Illinois, a 1968 US Supreme Court case that ruled against providing prosecution unlimited challenge of jurors who might have objections to the death penalty.

The Supreme Court of Illinois rejected petitioner's claim that evidence had  been suppressed and false evidence has been left uncorrected, and held that the shotgun was properly admitted into evidence as a weapon in Moore's possession when he was arrested.  The court found him suitable for commission of the crime charged. Petitioner then sought review in the US Supreme Court. The high court granted certiorari.
B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
James J. Doherty argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the brief were Gerald W. Getty, Richard J. and Horka, William H. Hall.
Thomas J. Immel argued the cause for respondent.
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed by Elmer Gertz and Willard J. Lassers for the American Civil Liberties Union, Illinois Division, et al., and by Jack Greenberg, James M. Nabrit III, Jack Himmelstein, and Anthony G. Amsterdam for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., et al. No amicus curiae were filed on behalf of respondent. 


IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"We know of no constitutional requirement that the prosecution make a complete and detailed accounting to the defense of all police investigatory work on a case…

[W]e are unable to conclude that the shotgun's introduction deprived Moore of the due process of law guaranteed him by the Fourteenth Amendment. The 16-gauge shotgun, found in the car, was in the constructive possession of both Moore and Barbee when they were arrested after the shooting incident on October 31. There is substantial other evidence in the record that a shotgun was used to kill Zitek, and that he suffered the wounds one would expect from a shotgun fired at close range. The testimony as to the murder itself, with all the details as to the shotgun wounds, is such that we cannot say that the presentation of the shotgun was so irrelevant or so inflammatory that Moore was denied a fair trial. The case is not federally reversible on this ground.

Inasmuch as the Court today has ruled that the imposition of the death penalty under statutes such as those of Illinois is violative of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, it is unnecessary for us to consider the claim of noncompliance with the Witherspoon standards [Witherspoon v. Illinois (1986)]… The sentence of death, however, may not now be imposed.

The judgment, insofar as it imposes the death sentence, is reversed, Furman v. Georgia, supra, and the case is remanded for further proceedings."
Justice Vote: 5 Pro vs. 4 Con
  • Blackmun, H. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Burger, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Brennan, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • White, B. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Rehnquist, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Marshall, T. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Douglas, W. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
  • Stewart, P. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
  • Powell, L. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
  • V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

    The ACLU filed as amicus urging reversal; the US Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the Supreme Court of Illinois in a 5-4 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.