MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.
We granted certiorari in this case to decide whether a defendant accused of aiding and abetting in the commission of a federal offense may be convicted after the named principal has been acquitted of that offense.
In June 1977, petitioner Standefer was indicted on four counts of making gifts to a public official, in violation of 18 U. S. C. § 201 (f), and on five counts of aiding and abetting a revenue official in accepting compensation in addition to that authorized by law, in violation of 26 U. S. C. § 7214 (a) (2) and 18 U. S. C. § 2.
Prior to the filing of this indictment, Niederberger was separately charged in a 10-count indictment—two counts for each of the five vacations—with violating 18 U. S. C. § 201 (g)
In July 1977, following Niederberger's trial and before the trial in his own case commenced, petitioner moved to dismiss the counts under § 7214 (a) (2) and 18 U. S. C. § 2 which charged him with aiding and abetting Niederberger in connection with the Pompano Beach, Miami, and Absecon vacations. Petitioner argued that because Niederberger, the only named principal, had been acquitted of accepting unlawful compensation as to those vacations, he could not be convicted of aiding and abetting in the commission of those offenses. The District Court denied the motion.
Petitioner's case then proceeded to trial on all nine counts. At trial, petitioner admitted authorizing payment for all five vacation trips, but testified that the trips were purely social and not designed to influence Niederberger in the performance of his official duties. The jury returned guilty verdicts on all nine counts.
Petitioner appealed his convictions to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit claiming, inter alia, that he could not
Because the question presented is one of importance to the administration of criminal justice on which the Courts of Appeals are in conflict, we granted certiorari.
Petitioner makes two main arguments: first, that Congress in enacting 18 U. S. C. § 2 did not intend to authorize prosecution of an aider and abettor after the principal has been acquitted of the offense charged; second, that, even if § 2 permits such a prosecution, the Government should be barred from relitigating the issue of whether Niederberger accepted unlawful compensation in connection with the Pompano Beach, Miami, and Absecon vacations.
At common law, the subject of principals and accessories was riddled with "intricate" distinctions. 2 J. Stephen, A History of the Criminal Law of England 231 (1883). In felony cases, parties to a crime were divided into four distinct categories: (1) principals in the first degree who actually perpetrated the offense; (2) principals in the second degree who were actually or constructively present at the scene of the crime and aided or abetted its commission; (3) accessories before the fact who aided or abetted the crime, but were not present at its commission; and (4) accessories after the fact who rendered assistance after the crime was complete. See W. LaFave & A. Scott, Criminal Law § 63 (1972); 4 W. Blackstone, Commentaries *33; Perkins, Parties to Crime, 89 U. Pa. L. Rev. 581 (1941). By contrast, misdemeanor cases "d[id] not admit of accessories either before or after the fact," United States v. Hartwell, 26 F. Cas. 196, 199 (No. 15,318) (CC Mass. 1869); instead, all parties to a misdemeanor, whatever their roles, were principals. United States v. Dotterweich, 320 U.S. 277, 281 (1943); 1 C. Torcia, Wharton's Criminal Law § 33 (14th ed. 1978).
Because at early common law all parties to a felony received the death penalty, certain procedural rules developed tending to shield accessories from punishment. See LaFave & Scott, supra, at 499. Among them was one of special relevance to this case: the rule that an accessory could not be convicted without the prior conviction of the principal offender. See 1 M. Hale, Pleas of the Crown *623-*624. Under this rule, the principal's flight, death, or acquittal barred prosecution of the accessory. And if the principal were pardoned or his conviction reversed on appeal, the accessory's conviction could not stand. In every way, "an accessory follow[ed], like a shadow, his principal." 1 J. Bishop, Criminal Law § 666 (8th ed. 1892).
This procedural bar applied only to the prosecution of accessories
To overcome these judge-made rules, statutes were enacted in England and in the United States. In 1848 the Parliament enacted a statute providing that an accessory before the fact could be "indicted, tried, convicted, and punished in all respects like the Principal." 11 & 12 Vic. ch. 46, § 1 (emphasis added). As interpreted, the statute permitted an accessory to be convicted "although the principal be acquitted." Queen v. Hughes, Bell 242, 248, 169 Eng. Rep. 1245, 1248 (1860). Several state legislatures followed suit.
The enactment of 18 U. S. C. § 2 in 1909 was part and parcel of this same reform movement. The language of the statute, as enacted, unmistakably demonstrates the point:
The legislative history of § 2 confirms this understanding. The provision was recommended by the Commission to Revise and Codify the Criminal and Penal Laws of the United States as "[i]n accordance with the policy of recent legislation" by which "those whose relations to a crime would be that of accessories before the fact according to the common law are made principals." 1 Final Report of the Commission to Revise and Codify the Laws of the United States 118-119 (1906). The Commission's recommendation was adopted without change. The House and Senate Committee Reports, in identical language, stated its intended effect:
And on the floor of the House of Representatives, Representative Moon, the Chairman of the Joint Select Committee, put the point simply: "We . . . have abolished the existing arbitrary distinction between felonies and misdemeanors." 42 Cong. Rec. 585 (1908).
This history plainly rebuts petitioner's contention that § 2 was not intended to authorize conviction of an aider and abettor after the principal had been acquitted of the offense charged.
The doctrine of nonmutual collateral estoppel was unknown to the common law and to the Congress when it enacted § 2 in 1909.
Here, petitioner urges us to apply nonmutual estoppel against the Government; specifically he argues that the Government
This, however, is a criminal case, presenting considerations different from those in Blonder-Tongue or Parklane Hosiery. First, in a criminal case, the Government is often without the kind of "full and fair opportunity to litigate" that is a prerequisite of estoppel. Several aspects of our criminal law make this so: the prosecution's discovery rights in criminal cases are limited, both by rules of court and constitutional privileges; it is prohibited from being granted a directed verdict or from obtaining a judgment notwithstanding the verdict no matter how clear the evidence in support of guilt, cf. Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 50; it cannot secure a new trial on the ground that an acquittal was plainly contrary to the weight of the evidence, cf. Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 59; and it cannot secure appellate review where a defendant has been acquitted. See United States v. Ball, 163 U.S. 662, 671 (1896).
The absence of these remedial procedures in criminal cases permits juries to acquit out of compassion or compromise or because of "'their assumption of a power which they had no right to exercise, but to which they were disposed through lenity.'" Dunn v. United States, 284 U.S. 390, 393 (1932), quoting Steckler v. United States, 7 F.2d 59, 60 (CA2 1925). See generally H. Kalven & H. Zeisel, The American Jury
The application of nonmutual estoppel in criminal cases is also complicated by the existence of rules of evidence and exclusion unique to our criminal law. It is frequently true in criminal cases that evidence inadmissible against one defendant is admissible against another. The exclusionary rule, for example, may bar the Government from introducing evidence against one defendant because that evidence was obtained in violation of his constitutional rights. And the suppression of that evidence may result in an acquittal.
It is argued that this concern could be met on a case-by-case basis by conducting a pretrial hearing to determine whether any such evidentiary ruling had deprived the Government of an opportunity to present its case fully the first time around. That process, however, could prove protracted and burdensome. Under such a scheme, the Government presumably would be entitled to seek review of any adverse evidentiary ruling rendered in the first proceeding and of any aspect of the jury charge in that case that worked to its detriment. Nothing short of that would insure that its opportunity to litigate had been "full and fair." If so, the "pretrial hearing" would fast become a substitute for appellate review, and the very purpose of litigation economy that estoppel is designed to promote would be frustrated.
Finally, this case involves an ingredient not present in either Blonder-Tongue or Parklane Hosiery: the important federal interest in the enforcement of the criminal law. Blonder-Tongue and Parklane Hosiery were disputes over private rights between private litigants. In such cases, no significant harm flows from enforcing a rule that affords a litigant only one full and fair opportunity to litigate an issue, and there is no sound reason for burdening the courts with repetitive litigation.
In short, this criminal case involves "competing policy considerations" that outweigh the economy concerns that undergird the estoppel doctrine. See Restatement (Second) of Judgments § 68.1 (e) and comments thereto (Tent. Draft No. 3, 1976); cf. Commissioner v. Sunnen, 333 U.S. 591 (1948).
In denying preclusive effect to Niederberger's acquittal, we do not deviate from the sound teaching that "justice must satisfy the appearance of justice." Offutt v. United States, 348 U.S. 11, 14 (1954). This case does no more than manifest the simple, if discomforting, reality that "different juries may reach different results under any criminal statute. That is one of the consequences we accept under our jury system." Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476, 492, n. 30 (1957). While symmetry of results may be intellectually satisfying, it is not required. See Hamling v. United States, 418 U.S. 87, 101 (1974).
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is
"Whoever, otherwise than as provided by law for the proper discharge of official duty, directly or indirectly gives, offers, or promises anything of value to any public official . . . for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by such public official . . . [is guilty of an offense]."
Title 26 U. S. C. § 7214 (a) (2) punishes:
"Any officer or employee of the United States acting in connection with any revenue law of the United States . . . who knowingly demands other or greater sums than are authorized by law, or receives any fee, compensation, or reward, except as by law prescribed, for the performance of any duty."
Title 18 U. S. C. § 2 provides in relevant part:
"Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal."
"Whoever, being a public official . . . , otherwise than as provided by law for the proper discharge of official duty, directly or indirectly asks, demands, exacts, solicits, seeks, accepts, receives, or agrees to receive anything of value for himself for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by him."
Since then, at least 21 other States have enacted legislation with that effect. See 1977 Ala. Act No. 607, § 425; Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-304-1 (1978); Ark. Stat. Ann. § 41-304 (1977); Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1-605 (1973) (see Roberts v. People, 103 Colo. 250, 87 P.2d 251 (1938)); Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-9 (1979); Fla. Stat. § 777.011 (1979) (see Butts v. State, 286 So.2d 28 (1973)); Ga. Code § 26-802 (1978); Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 38, § 5-3 (1979); Ind. Code § 35-41-2-4 (Supp. 1978); La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1424 (West 1974) (see State v. McAllister, 366 So.2d 1340 (1978)); Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., Tit. 17-A, § 57 (1979); Mich. Comp. Laws § 767.39 (1970) (People v. Smith, 271 Mich. 553, 260 N. W. 911 (1935)); Mo. Rev. Stat. § 562.046 (1978); Neb. Rev. Stat. § 28-206 (Supp. 1978) (State v. Rice, 188 Neb. 728, 199 N.W.2d 480 (1972)); N. H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 626.8 (1974); N. J. Stat. Ann. § 2C: 2-6 (West Spec. Pamph. 1979); N. M. Stat. Ann. § 30-1-13 (1978); Pa. Cons. Stat., Tit. 18, § 306 (Supp. 1979); S. C. Code § 16-1-50 (1976) (State v. Massey, 229 S.E.2d 332 (1976)); Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 7.03 (Vernon 1974); Wis. Stat. § 939.05 (1977).
Eleven other States have enacted statutes that modify the common-law rule; these statutes have not been authoritatively construed on whether an accessory can be prosecuted after his principal's acquittal. See Haw. Rev. Stat. § 702-225 (1976); Idaho Code § 19-1431 (1979); Mass. Gen. Laws Ann., ch. 274, § 3 (West 1970); Minn. Stat. § 609.05 (1978); Nev. Rev. Stat. § 195.040 (1979); Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2923.03 (1979); Ore. Rev. Stat. § 161.160 (1979); Vt. Stat. Ann., Tit. 13, § 3 (1974); Va. Code § 18.2-21 (1975); W. Va. Code § 61-11-7 (1977); Wyo. Stat. § 6-1-114 (1977).
Only four States—Maryland, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Tennessee— clearly retain the common-law bar. See State v. Ward, 284 Md. 189, 396 A.2d 1041 (1978); State v. Jones, 101 N.C. 719, 8 S. E. 147 (1888) (interpreting N. C. Gen. Stat. § 14-5 (1969)); R. I. Gen. Laws § 11-1-3 (1970); Pierce v. State, 130 Tenn. 24, 168 S. W. 851 (1914).
The Model Penal Code provides that an accomplice may be convicted "though the person claimed to have committed the offense . . . has been acquitted." § 2.06 (7) (Tent. Draft No. 3, 1955), and see comments 38-39 (Tent. Draft No. 1, 1953).