348 U.S. 105 (1954), 119, Massey v. Moore

Docket Nº:No. 119
Citation:348 U.S. 105, 75 S.Ct. 145, 99 L.Ed. 135
Party Name:Massey v. Moore
Case Date:December 06, 1954
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 105

348 U.S. 105 (1954)

75 S.Ct. 145, 99 L.Ed. 135




No. 119

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 6, 1954

Argued November 8, 1954




In a habeas corpus proceeding in a federal court, petitioner sought release from life imprisonment for a noncapital offense of which he had been convicted in a state court. He alleged that he was tried and convicted without counsel while he was insane and unable to defend himself. The state courts had denied him relief because, under state law, the question whether he was insane, and thus unable to defend himself, could be raised only at the trial or on appeal, not collaterally. The question whether, at the time of the trial, he was mentally competent to defend himself without counsel has never been determined.

Held: petitioner is entitled to a hearing on this question, since it would be a denial of the due process required by the Fourteenth Amendment to require an insane man to stand trial in a state court without counsel. Pp. 106-109.

(a) One might not be insane in the sense of being incapable of standing trial and yet lack the capacity to stand trial without benefit of counsel. P. 108.

(b) An insane man tried without counsel cannot be held to the requirement of tendering the issue of his insanity at the trial. Pp. 108-109.

(c) Failure of an insane man without counsel to raise the question of his insanity on appeal does not waive his constitutional right. P. 109.

205 F.2d 665 reversed.

Page 106

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

[75 S.Ct. 146] MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner, who is in a Texas prison under a life sentence imposed by a Texas court, brought this petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Federal District Court. His claim is that he was denied the due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment because he was tried and convicted of robbery at a time when he was of unsound mind and unassisted by counsel. The District Court denied the petition without a hearing. The Court of Appeals affirmed by a divided vote. 205 F.2d 665. The case is here on certiorari. 347 U.S. 1011.

Petitioner's trial on the robbery charge started and ended the same day. He had been confined to the psychopathic hospital of the state prison for several...

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