364 U.S. 471 (1960), 241, Scott v. California

Docket Nº:No. 241, Misc.
Citation:364 U.S. 471, 81 S.Ct. 245, 5 L.Ed.2d 222
Party Name:Scott v. California
Case Date:December 05, 1960
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 471

364 U.S. 471 (1960)

81 S.Ct. 245, 5 L.Ed.2d 222

Scott

v.

California

No. 241, Misc.

United States Supreme Court

December 5, 1960

APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA,

SECOND APPELLATE DISTRICT

Syllabus

Appellant was convicted in a state court of murdering his wife. The evidence against him was entirely circumstantial. Proof of the corpus delicti, as well as proof of appellant's criminal agency, was to be inferred only from his wife's inexplicable disappearance coupled with appellant's unnatural behavior thereafter. He did not take the stand in his own defense, and the trial judge instructed the jury that his failure to do so could be made the basis of inferences unfavorable to him. On appeal to this Court, appellant contended that his conviction violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Held: Appeal dismissed and certiorari denied.

Reported below: 176 Cal.App. 2d 458, 1 Cal. Rptr. 600.

Per curiam opinion.

PER CURIAM.

The motion to dismiss is granted and the appeal is dismissed. Treating the papers whereon the appeal was taken as a petition for certiorari, certiorari is denied.

DOUGLAS, J., dissenting

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting.

The salient facts in this case are related in 176 Cal.App.2d 458, 1 Cal.Rptr. 600. A reading of the report shows that the entire evidence against the defendant was circumstantial. It was not even shown directly that his wife, whom he is now convicted of murdering, is dead. Proof of the corpus delicti, as well as proof of petitioner's criminal

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agency, was to inferred from his wife's inexplicable disappearance coupled with his unnatural behavior thereafter. A prominent aspect of this unnatural behavior was his silence. At the trial, the petitioner did not take the stand. The trial judge, in accord with California law, charged the jury as follows:

It is a constitutional right of a defendant in a criminal trial that he may not be compelled to testify. Thus, whether or not he does testify rests entirely in his own decision. As to any evidence or facts against him which the defendant can reasonably be expected to deny or explain because of facts within his knowledge, if he does not testify, the jury may take that fact into consideration as tending to indicate the truth of such evidence and as indicating that, among the inferences that may be reasonably drawn therefrom, those unfavorable to the defendant are the more...

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