324 U.S. 760 (1945), 212, White v. Ragen

Docket Nº:No. 212
Citation:324 U.S. 760, 65 S.Ct. 978, 89 L.Ed. 1348
Party Name:White v. Ragen
Case Date:April 23, 1945
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 760

324 U.S. 760 (1945)

65 S.Ct. 978, 89 L.Ed. 1348




No. 212

United States Supreme Court

April 23, 1945

Argued March 29, April 2, 1945



1. The petitions for habeas corpus in these cases sufficiently alleged violations of petitioners' rights under the Federal Constitution. P. 764.

2. This Court is unable to say that the refusal of the Supreme Court of Illinois to entertain the petitions for habeas corpus in these cases does not rest on an adequate nonfederal ground, and the writs of certiorari herein must be dismissed. P. 766.

Page 761

3. In view of the practice adopted by the Supreme Court of Illinois, it follows that, whenever a petition originally filed in that court for a writ of habeas corpus is denied without opinion or other indication of the ground of its decision, and when the petition relies on allegations of fact to raise federal questions, it is unnecessary for the petitioner, in order to exhaust his state remedies, to apply to this Court for certiorari to review the judgment of the Supreme Court of Illinois. A denial of certiorari by this Court in such circumstances does not bar an application to a federal district court for the relief, grounded on federal rights, which the Supreme Court of Illinois has denied. But any other state remedies, if available, must be exhausted before any application to the federal district court. P. 767.

4. A petition for certiorari to review a judgment of the Supreme Court of Illinois denying an application for habeas corpus, which must be denied here because the decision of that court appears to rest on an adequate nonfederal ground, cannot be treated as a petition to review a decision of a lower court of the State which had denied an earlier application for habeas corpus, since the petition in the lower state court is not before this Court and its contents do not otherwise appear of record. P. 767.

Writs dismissed.

Certiorari, 323 U.S. 704, to review judgments denying leave to file petitions for habeas corpus.

Per curiam opinion.


In these cases, petitioners moved in the Supreme Court of Illinois for leave to file their petitions for habeas corpus. Both petitioners are in the custody of respondent, under sentences upon state convictions. In each case, the Illinois court, without requiring an answer from respondent, without appointing an attorney to represent petitioners,

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and without giving any reasons for its action, denied leave to file the petitions. We granted certiorari, in forma pauperis, 323 U.S. 704, because the petitions alleged facts showing prima facie violations of petitioners' rights guaranteed by the Federal Constitution, and in order to consider whether the Illinois affords corrective process for such violations of constitutional right.1 On application of the petitioners, counsel was appointed to represent them in this Court.

[65 S.Ct. 980] Petitioner White, in No. 212, alleged in his petition for habeas corpus that two indictments for "obtaining money and goods by means of the confidence game" were returned against him in the state Criminal Court; that the court, in advance of the trial, appointed counsel to represent petitioner, but that the person so appointed did not confer with petitioner until they came to court for the trial; that then counsel refused to do anything for petitioner unless petitioner had some money; that in particular petitioner

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asked counsel to have one witness called in his behalf, but counsel replied that "he did not have time, as he had a case in another Court, and for me to plead guilty, as the Judge would not give me a continuance." The petition for habeas corpus further alleged that petitioner asked the trial judge "to continue the proceedings so he could have time to call a witness, and confer with his attorney;" that the judge then told petitioner "to keep still, as his lawyer would do all the talking for him," and "thereupon the attorney pleaded the petitioner guilty to two indictments," on which he was given sentences of from one to ten years, to be served concurrently, and that petitioner was thereby denied the assistance of counsel in a criminal trial in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The petition for habeas corpus of petitioner Lutz, in No. 259, alleged that he was tried and convicted for the crime of murder in the state Circuit Court; that he was sentenced to life imprisonment, and that his trial and conviction were without due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, in that his conviction was obtained by the use of false testimony of two witnesses for the state. It was alleged that the prosecuting attorney induced and procured this testimony by bribery of the witnesses, and that he introduced it at the trial with knowledge that it was false. Attached to the petition are the affidavits of the two witnesses in question, each stating that his testimony at the trial was false and that he was bribed to give it by the prosecuting attorney. The affidavits of two other persons, also attached to the petition, tend to corroborate the affidavits of the two witnesses.

Since the Supreme Court of Illinois dismissed both petitions without requiring respondent to answer, we must assume that the petitioners' allegations are true. Williams v. Kaiser, 323 U.S. 471, 473-474; House v. Mayo, 324 U.S. 42. We have many times repeated that not only does due process require that a defendant, on trial in a

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state court upon a serious criminal charge and unable to defend himself, shall have the benefit of counsel, compare Williams v. Kaiser, supra, Tomkins v. Missouri, 323 U.S. 485, and Rice v. Olsen, 324 U.S. 786, with Betts v. Brady, 316 U.S. 455, but that it is a denial of the accused's constitutional right to a fair trial to force him to trial with such expedition as to deprive him of the effective aid and assistance of counsel. Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45; Avery v. Alabama, 308 U.S. 444; Ex parte Hawk, 321 U.S. 114, 115-116; House v. Mayo, supra. And we have often pointed out that a conviction, secured by the use of perjured testimony, known to be such by...

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