skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 73151 Find in a Library
Title: Disposition of a Federal Criminal Case When Defendant Dies Pending Appeal
Journal: University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform  Volume:13  Issue:1  Dated:(Fall 1979)  Pages:143-157
Author(s): L R Dickerman
Date Published: 1979
Page Count: 15
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article discusses the way in which courts historically have disposed of cases in which the defendant dies pending appeal, as well as the apparent change recently introduced by the Supreme Court. Changes in current practice are recommended which better serve the interests of the deceased, the survivors, and society.
Abstract: Until 1976 when a defendant in a Federal criminal case died pending appellate review of his conviction, all proceedings against him including the indictment were abated, and the conviction was dismissed on remand to the trial court. This policy applied to both prison sentences and fines. Because of the impossibility of punishing the deceased and the perceived injustice in punishing the family, the fine, like a prison sentence, abates together with the conviction. Two minority opinions in Durham v. United States (1971), in which the appellant died while his petition for certiorari was pending, presaged a change in the traditional rule. In 1976, the Supreme Court in Dove v. United States explicitly overruled Durham in a brief per curiam opinion denying certiorari in a case where the defendant died while the petition was pending. The denial of certiorari caused the conviction to remain on the deceased petitioner's record. Giving no rationale for breaking the precedent of Durham and previous cases, the Court left unclear whether the ruling should be limited to cases before the Court on petitions for certirorari or should be applied to all cases, at whatever level of appeal. The importance of Durham and Dove can only be understood in view of their effects on survivors and third-party beneficiaries, since most ramifications of a conviction or abatement extend beyond the deceased appellant. The results of sustaining a deceased appellant's conviction may include survival of criminal fines, denial of social welfare benefits, carryover of victim compensation liabilities, and perpetuation of social stigma. Survivors should be given the right to continue to prosecute appeals before both the circuit courts of appeal and the Supreme Court in an effort to vindicate the deceased and to retain the social and legal rights they might otherwise lose. Over 70 footnotes are provided. (Author abstract modified).
Index Term(s): Appeal procedures; Dispositions; Fatalities; Judicial decisions; Rights of the accused; US Supreme Court
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.