Palko v. Connecticut
302 U.S. 319, 58 S.Ct. 149, 82 L.Ed. 288 (1937)

  • Palko killed two policemen while fleeing the scene of a robbery.
  • He was arrested and charged with first degree murder, under Connecticut State law.
  • At trial, the judge improperly excluded some of the prosecution’s evidence.
  • The Trial Court found Palko guilty of the lesser offence of second degree murder, and sentenced him to life in prison.
  • The prosecution appealed and won a new trial.
    • This was allowed under Connecticut State law, but would have been a violation of the 5th Amendment under Federal law because it would be trying him twice for the same crime.
      • Aka double jeopardy.
    • It was allowed under Connecticut State law because they took the position that the goal was an error-free trial, and if errors had been made, the case should be retried, no matter who benefited from those errors.
  • At the new trial, Palko was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death. Palko appealed.
    • Palko argued that the second trial was unconstitutional.
      • The 5th Amendment protects a defendant against double jeopardy.
      • Palko argued that the 14th Amendment makes the Bill of Rights applicable to the States.
  • The US Supreme Court upheld the conviction.
    • The US Supreme Court found that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment only protected those rights that were “essential to a fundamental scheme of ordered liberty,”
    • In this case, the Court found that the double jeopardy protection was not “essential to a fundamental scheme of ordered liberty.”
    • Basically, the Court asked if it was possible to have a trial that could been considered fundamentally fair under the Connecticut standard. They decided it did.
      • The Court felt that as long as the trial was fair, it didn’t matter if it was identical to the Federal standard.
  • The case applied what was known as the fundamental fairness approach for incorporating the Bill of Rights into State law.
    • The other approaches are the total incorporation approach and the selective incorporation approach.
  • This case was later overruled by Benton v. Maryland (395 U.S. 784 (1969)).