13 F.Supp. 253 (N.D.Ga. 1935), 1029, Bridwell v. Aderhold

Docket Nº:1029, 1030.
Citation:13 F.Supp. 253
Case Date:December 19, 1935
Court:United States District Courts, 11th Circuit, Northern District of Georgia

Page 253

13 F.Supp. 253 (N.D.Ga. 1935)







Nos. 1029, 1030.

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia

Dec. 19, 1935

Frank A. Doughman, of Atlanta, Ga., for petitioners.

Lawrence S. Camp, U.S. Atty., and H. T. Nichols, Asst. U.S. Atty., both of Atlanta, Ga., for respondent.

UNDERWOOD, District Judge.

Petitioners were defendants in the same indictment, the questions involved in their habeas corpus cases were the same, and they were heard together, though separate orders are entered in each case.

Upon the allowance of these writs and the appearance of petitioners, who were men of little education and without counsel or funds to procure same, the court suggested that, if petitioners desired, counsel would be appointed to represent them and aid the court in these proceedings, since the partial hearing then had disclosed that serious questions were involved and that it would be necessary to take testimony in the cases. Such request was made and counsel appointed. The cases were then continued to allow counsel time to prepare same and take testimony.

Later the cases came on for hearing upon oral evidence and depositions, and the cases are now ready for disposition.

Petitioners were arrested in Charleston, S.C., on November 21, 1934, charged with possessing and uttering counterfeit money. A preliminary hearing was had before the United States Commissioner at which an attorney appeared on their behalf. They were bound over by the Commissioner to await the action of the United States grand jury, and were confined in jail because of their inability to give bail. On January 21, 1935, they were indicted by the grand jury, but were not notified of the finding of the indictment

Page 254

until they were brought into court on January 23, for arraignment and trial.

There was some question as to the form of the arraignment, but it was sufficient so far as this proceeding is concerned. Upon arraignment, petitioners pleaded not guilty, and the court asked them if they had counsel, but did not ask them if they wished the court to appoint counsel. Petitioners admit they did not request the court to appoint counsel, but claim that they made such request of the District Attorney, who replied that in the state of South Carolina the court did not appoint counsel unless the defendant was charged with a capital offense. The District Attorney denied this.

The court thereupon asked petitioners if they were ready for trial, and they replied in the affirmative and proceeded to trial, although they had just been informed of the finding of the indictment and had no witnesses present, claiming that they relied on the District Attorney's statement that they were not entitled to counsel and that it was too late then to have witnesses subpoenaed. This assertion the District Attorney also denies.

Both petitioners lived in distant cities of other states and neither had relatives, friends, or acquaintances in Charleston. Both had little education and were without funds. They testified that they had never been guilty of nor charged with any offense before, and there was no evidence in rebuttal of these statements.

Petitioners were arraigned, tried, and convicted on January 23d, and sentence of four years and six months was imposed on each immediately thereafter, about 5:30 p.m. on the same day. They did not then ask for a new trial or inform the court that they wished to appeal the case, or ask for counsel.

They were remanded to jail, where they asked the jailer to call a lawyer for them, but were not permitted to contact one. They did not, however, undertake to get any message to the judge.

At about 8 o'clock in the morning of January 25th, they were transported by automobile to the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Ga., arriving about 5 p.m. the same day.

There, as is the custom, they were placed in isolation and so kept for sixteen days without being permitted to communicate with any one except the officers of the institution, but they did see the officers daily. They made no request of the officers to be permitted to see a lawyer, nor did they ask the officers to present to the trial judge a motion for new trial or application for appeal or notice that they desired to move for a new trial or to take an appeal.

On May 15, 1935, petitioners filed applications for appeal which were denied because filed too late.

The questions presented in these cases are whether or not petitioners' constitutional right to assistance of counsel has been denied, and whether or not they have been deprived of due process of law; and, if so, whether this court, in a habeas corpus proceeding, can grant relief.

There is no evidence in these pleadings tending to show that the trial, apart from the irregularities stated above, was not fair, or that petitioners were innocent.

The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution provides that 'In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a...

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