294 U.S. 103 (1935), , Mooney v. Holohan

Citation:294 U.S. 103, 55 S.Ct. 340, 79 L.Ed. 791
Party Name:Mooney v. Holohan No. ___, original
Case Date:January 21, 1935
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 103

294 U.S. 103 (1935)

55 S.Ct. 340, 79 L.Ed. 791




No. ___, original

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 21, 1935

Rule to Show Cause Issued November 12, 1934

Return to Rule Presented January 7, 1935



1. The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment governs any action of a State through its legislature, its courts, or its executive officers, including action through its prosecuting officers. P. 112.

2. A criminal conviction procured by the state prosecuting authorities solely by the use of perjured testimony known by them to be perjured and knowingly used by them in order to procure the conviction is without due process of law, and in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 112.

3. It is the duty of every State to provide corrective judicial process for the relief of persons convicted and imprisoned for crime without due process of law; and it is to be presumed that this duty has been complied with. P. 113.

4. Semble that, in the courts of California, the writ of habeas corpus is available for one who is deprived of his liberty without due process

Page 104

of law in violation of the Constitution of the United States. P. 113.

5. Before this Court is asked to issue a writ of habeas corpus in the case of a person held under a state commitment, recourse should be had to whatever judicial remedy afforded by the State may still remain open. P. 115.

Leave to file denied.

On a motion for leave to file a petition for habeas corpus. The case was heard upon the petition and upon a return made by the State, in response to an order to show cause. The return did not put in issue any of the facts alleged in the petition, but was in the nature of a demurrer.

Page 109

Per curiam opinion.


Thomas J. Mooney asks leave to file petition for an original writ of habeas corpus. He states that he is unlawfully restrained of his liberty by the state of California under a commitment pursuant to a conviction, in February, 1917, of murder in the first degree and sentence of death subsequently commuted to life imprisonment. He submits the record of proceedings set forth in his petition for a writ of habeas corpus presented to the District

Page 110

Court of the United States for [55 S.Ct. 341] the Northern District of California and dismissed upon the ground that the petitioner had not exhausted his legal remedies in the state court. 7 F.Supp. 385. Applications to the judges of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for allowance of an appeal to that court from the judgment of dismissal have severally been denied. In re Mooney, 72 F.(2d) 503.

Petitioner charges that the state holds him in confinement without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. The grounds of his charge are, in substance, that the sole basis of his conviction was perjured testimony, which was knowingly used by the prosecuting authorities in order to obtain that conviction, and also that these authorities deliberately suppressed evidence which would have impeached and refuted the testimony thus given against him. He alleges that he could not be reasonable diligence have discovered prior to the denial of his motion for a new trial, and his appeal to the Supreme Court of the state, the evidence which was subsequently developed and which proved the testimony against him to have been perjured. Petitioner urges that the "knowing use" by the statute of perjured testimony to obtain the conviction and the deliberate suppression of evidence to impeach that testimony constituted a denial of due process of law. Petitioner further contends that the state deprives him of his liberty without due process of law by its failure, in the circumstances set forth, to provide any corrective judicial process by which a conviction so obtained may be set aside.

In support of his serious charges, petitioner submits a chronological history of the trials, appeals, and other judicial proceedings connected with his conviction, and of his applications for executive clemency. He sets forth the evidence which, as he contends, proves the perjury

Page 111

of the witnesses upon whose testimony he was convicted and the knowledge on the part of the prosecuting authorities of that perjury and the suppression by those authorities of impeaching evidence at their command. He also submits what he insists are admissions by the state that the testimony offered against him was perjured, and that his conviction was unjustified. In amplification of these statements, he asks leave to incorporate in his petition, by reference, the voluminous details of the various proceedings as they were presented with his petition to the District Court.

In response to our rule to show cause why leave to file the petition should not be granted, the respondent has made return by the Attorney General of the state. With this return, he submits an appendix of exhibits setting forth the consent filed by the Attorney General with the Supreme Court of the state on July 30, 1917, that the judgment of conviction be reversed and the cause remanded for a new trial, and subsequent opinions of that court upon the cases presented to it, the statements of Governors of the state on applications for executive clemency made on behalf of this petitioner and of one Billings (who had been jointly indicted with petitioner and was separately tried and convicted),...

To continue reading