365 U.S. 534 (1961), 40, Rogers v. Richmond

Docket NºNo. 40
Citation365 U.S. 534, 81 S.Ct. 735, 5 L.Ed.2d 760
Party NameRogers v. Richmond
Case DateMarch 20, 1961
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 534

365 U.S. 534 (1961)

81 S.Ct. 735, 5 L.Ed.2d 760

Rogers

v.

Richmond

No. 40

United States Supreme Court

March 20, 1961

Argued November 8-9, 1960

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

Syllabus

At the trial in a state court in which petitioner was convicted of murder, two confessions which he claimed had been obtained by coercion were admitted in evidence over his objection. In determining that the confessions were "voluntary," both the trial court and the State Supreme Court, which affirmed the conviction, gave consideration to the question whether or not the confessions were reliable. Petitioner applied to a Federal District Court for a writ of habeas corpus, claiming that his conviction violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. On the basis of the record in the state trial court and that court's finding that the confessions were "voluntary," the District Court denied the writ, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: The admissibility of the confessions was not determined in accordance with standards satisfying the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; the judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded to the Court of Appeals to be held in order to give the State an opportunity to retry petitioner, in the light of this opinion, within a reasonable time. In default thereof, petitioner is to be discharged. Pp. 534-549.

271 F.2d 364, reversed.

FRANKFURTER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case has a long history. It must be told with some particularity in order to unravel issues ensnarled in protracted litigation in both state and federal courts, turning essentially on the admissibility of confessions.

Page 535

The Trial. -- Petitioner was found guilty of murder by a jury in the Superior Court, New Haven County, Connecticut. The undisputed evidence leading to the conviction may be briefly told. On January 9, 1954, New Haven, Connecticut, police arrested petitioner on charges of committing attempted robbery and other crimes on that day at a local hotel. At the time of his arrest, petitioner had in his possession a revolver. Subsequent ballistic tests tended to show that this weapon, which had been reported stolen from the home of petitioner's nephew, was used in a fatal shooting during a liquor store robbery in West Haven, Connecticut, on November 21, 1953, the same day its disappearance was discovered.

Petitioner was lodged in the New Haven County Jail pending trial on the charges that prompted his arrest. On January 30, 1954, he was transported [81 S.Ct. 737] without court order from the jail to the office of the State's Attorney for questioning in connection with the West Haven killing. The interrogation commenced at approximately 2 p.m. of that day, and continued throughout the afternoon and evening. During the interrogation, petitioner was allowed to smoke, was brought a sandwich and coffee, and was at no time subjected to violence or threat of violence.

After petitioner had been intermittently questioned without success by a team of at least three police officers from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., New Haven Assistant Chief of Police Eagan was called in to conduct the investigation. When petitioner persisted in his denial that he had done the shooting, Chief Eagan pretended, in petitioner's hearing, to place a telephone call to police officers, directing them to stand in readiness to bring in petitioner's wife for questioning. After the passage of approximately one hour, during which petitioner remained silent. Chief Eagan indicated that he was about to have petitioner's wife taken into custody. At this point, petitioner

Page 536

announced his willingness to confess, and did confess in a statement which was taken down in shorthand by an official court reporter.

The following morning, the Coroner of New Haven County issued an order that petitioner be held incommunicado at the jail. When a lawyer associated with counsel whom petitioner had previously retained to defend him on the attempted robbery charge called at the jail to see petitioner, he was turned away on the authority of the Coroner's order. Petitioner was then transported to the County Court House for interrogation by the Coroner, who had been informed of his confession of the previous night. There, he was put on oath to tell the truth, but warned that he might refuse to say anything further and advised that he might obtain the assistance of counsel. Petitioner again confessed to the shooting in a statement recorded by the same official court reporter.

Petitioner's defense at the trial was directed toward discrediting the confessions as the product of coercion. In accordance with Connecticut practice, see, e.g., State v. Willis, 71 Conn. 293, 41 A. 820; State v. Guastamachio, 137 Conn. 179, 75 A.2d 429, the trial judge heard the evidence bearing on admissibility of the confessions without the jury present. At this hearing, petitioner testified that, shortly after the commencement of the interrogation, he asked to see a lawyer but was never permitted to do so. He also testified, with reference to Chief Eagen's pretense of bringing petitioner's wife in for questioning, that this move took the form of a threat to do so unless he confessed, and that, in making this threat, Chief Eagan told him that he would be "less than a man" if he failed to confess, and thereby caused her to be taken into custody. According to petitioner, his wife suffered from arthritis, and he confessed to spare her being transported to the scene of the interrogation.

Page 537

The State met petitioner's account with the testimony of Chief Eagan. He testified that petitioner made no request to see a lawyer during his presence in the room. However, it will be recalled that Chief Eagan did not arrive until the questioning had run a course of six hours, and that petitioner claimed to have requested counsel during that period. Chief Eagan also denied that he had framed his remarks about bringing petitioner's wife in for questioning as a threat, or that he had suggested that petitioner would be "less than a man," etc.

On the basis of the evidence summarized, the trial judge concluded that the confessions were voluntary, and allowed them to go to the jury for consideration of the weight to be given them under all the circumstances that led to them. Conviction of petitioner for murder followed.

Review by the Connecticut Supreme Court. -- On appeal, the Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut, finding no error in the trial judge's admission of the confessions, affirmed the conviction, State v. Rogers, 143 Conn. 167, 120 A.2d 409.

First Federal Habeas Corpus Proceeding. -- In August of 1956, after satisfying the rule of Darr v. Burford, 339 U.S. 200, petitioner sought a federal writ of habeas corpus, basically on the ground that, since the confessions were secured under circumstances rendering them constitutionally inadmissible, he was denied due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment. The United States District Court for the District of Connecticut held a hearing based on the evidence offered by the parties. This evidence included excerpts from the record of the state proceedings, as well as testimony of petitioner and various state officials. Neither petitioner nor respondent submitted the entire transcript of the state proceedings, and the district judge did not call for it. Petitioner again testified that before he confessed he had requested an opportunity

Page 538

to confer with his lawyer. His testimony was flatly contradicted by three police officers called by the State's Attorney, none of whom had testified at the trial.

On the testimony before him, the district judge made findings which differed from those of the state trial judge in several important respects. He accepted petitioner's testimony that, during the police interrogation, he had asked to see his lawyer before he yielded to Chief Eagan's efforts to have him confess. He also found that the confession before the Coroner was the product of fear that repudiation of the earlier confession would lead the police to take his wife and foster children into custody. Accordingly, he concluded that "The confessions were the result of pressure overcoming Rogers' powers of resistance, and were not voluntary on his part," United States ex rel. Rogers v. Cummings, 154 F.Supp. 663, 665. He therefore set aside the judgment of conviction.

First Court of Appeals Review. -- On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated the District Court's judgment, finding that it was error to hold a hearing de novo on issues of basic evidentiary fact that had been considered and adjudicated by the state courts. Relying on Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443, the Court of Appeals concluded that the district judge should have called for the entire state record before reaching his decision. It held

that, in the case now before us, the nature of the issues presented and proper regard for the delicate balance of federal-state relationships required the District Judge to obtain and examine the State proceedings. . . . Only on an adequate state record can the District Court determine if a vital flaw exists which warrants correction by extrinsic evidence.

United States ex rel. Rogers v. Richmond, 252 F.2d 807, 810, 811.

Page 539

The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the District Court with the following instructions:

Unless the judge below shall find in the record thus before him material which he deems to constitute "vital flaws" and "unusual circumstances" within the meaning of Brown v. Allen, we hold that he should make the necessary constitutional determinations exclusively on the basis of the historical facts as found by the State trial court.

252 F.2d at 811.

Certiorari Proceeding. -- The petitioner sought certiorari here, and we...

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1178 practice notes
  • 246 F.Supp. 72 (S.D.N.Y. 1965), United States ex rel. Laino v. Warden of Wallkill Prison
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Southern District of New York
    • 25 de Agosto de 1965
    ...of fact applied correct standards of federal law to the facts, in the absence of evidence, such as was present in Rogers v. Richmond (365 U.S. 534, 81 S.Ct. 735, 5 L.Ed.2d 760), that there is reason to suspect that an incorrect standard was in fact applied.' Relator's support for his presen......
  • 254 F.Supp. 909 (S.D.N.Y. 1966), 65 Civ. 3721, Terry v. Denno
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Southern District of New York
    • 18 de Maio de 1966
    ...States ex rel. Tangredi v. Wallack, 236 F.Supp. 205, 207(S.D.N.Y.1964), aff'd, 343 F.2d 752 (2d Cir. 1965). Accord, Rogers v. Richmond, 365 U.S. 534, 547-548, 81 S.Ct. 735, 5 L.Ed.2d 760 (1961). [7] Darr v. Burford, 339 U.S. 200, 205, 70 S.Ct. 587, 94 L.Ed. 761 (1950); Wade v. Mayo, 334 U.S......
  • 295 F.2d 83 (2nd Cir. 1961), 314, United States ex rel. Reid v. Richmond
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
    • 19 de Setembro de 1961
    ...a like nature are now appearing in this state, so generally renowned for its fair administration of the law; thus see Rogers v. Richmond, 365 U.S. 534, 81 S.Ct. 735, 5 L.Ed.2d 760, reversing 2 Cir., 271 F.2d 364; Culombe v. Connecticut, 367 U.S. 568, 81 S.Ct. 1860, 6 L.Ed.2d 1037, reversing......
  • 360 F.Supp. 156 (S.D.Fla. 1973), Civ. 73-126, Paulson v. State of Florida
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 11th Circuit Southern District of Florida
    • 14 de Junho de 1973
    ...facts and their constitutional significance [are] so blended that they cannot be severed in consideration."' Rogers v. Richmond, 365 U.S. 543, 546, 81 S.Ct. 735, 742, 5 L.Ed.2d 760 (1961), quoted in Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. at 315, 83 S.Ct. at 758. But the statutory impetus to the tr......
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1137 cases
  • 246 F.Supp. 72 (S.D.N.Y. 1965), United States ex rel. Laino v. Warden of Wallkill Prison
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Southern District of New York
    • 25 de Agosto de 1965
    ...of fact applied correct standards of federal law to the facts, in the absence of evidence, such as was present in Rogers v. Richmond (365 U.S. 534, 81 S.Ct. 735, 5 L.Ed.2d 760), that there is reason to suspect that an incorrect standard was in fact applied.' Relator's support for his presen......
  • 254 F.Supp. 909 (S.D.N.Y. 1966), 65 Civ. 3721, Terry v. Denno
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Southern District of New York
    • 18 de Maio de 1966
    ...States ex rel. Tangredi v. Wallack, 236 F.Supp. 205, 207(S.D.N.Y.1964), aff'd, 343 F.2d 752 (2d Cir. 1965). Accord, Rogers v. Richmond, 365 U.S. 534, 547-548, 81 S.Ct. 735, 5 L.Ed.2d 760 (1961). [7] Darr v. Burford, 339 U.S. 200, 205, 70 S.Ct. 587, 94 L.Ed. 761 (1950); Wade v. Mayo, 334 U.S......
  • 295 F.2d 83 (2nd Cir. 1961), 314, United States ex rel. Reid v. Richmond
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
    • 19 de Setembro de 1961
    ...a like nature are now appearing in this state, so generally renowned for its fair administration of the law; thus see Rogers v. Richmond, 365 U.S. 534, 81 S.Ct. 735, 5 L.Ed.2d 760, reversing 2 Cir., 271 F.2d 364; Culombe v. Connecticut, 367 U.S. 568, 81 S.Ct. 1860, 6 L.Ed.2d 1037, reversing......
  • 360 F.Supp. 156 (S.D.Fla. 1973), Civ. 73-126, Paulson v. State of Florida
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 11th Circuit Southern District of Florida
    • 14 de Junho de 1973
    ...facts and their constitutional significance [are] so blended that they cannot be severed in consideration."' Rogers v. Richmond, 365 U.S. 543, 546, 81 S.Ct. 735, 742, 5 L.Ed.2d 760 (1961), quoted in Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. at 315, 83 S.Ct. at 758. But the statutory impetus to the tr......
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  • Executive Detention, Boumediene, and the New Common Law of Habeas
    • United States
    • Iowa Law Review Nbr. 95-2, February 2010
    • 1 de Fevereiro de 2010
    ...and that abhorrence is now shared by over 140 countries which have acceded to the Torture Convention"). [464] See Rogers v. Richmond, 365 U.S. 534, 540-41 (1961) (explaining that statements extracted under coercion are categorically inadmissible not only "because such confessions ......
  • Incriminating thoughts.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 64 Nbr. 2, February 2012
    • 1 de Fevereiro de 2012
    ...and how society should protect our thoughts--be they innocent or incriminating. (1.) 384 U.S. 757, 763-64 (1966). (2.) Rogers v. Richmond, 365 U.S. 534, 541 (1961). (3.) See Schmerber, 384 U.S. at 764 ("The distinction which has emerged, often expressed in different ways, is that the p......
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    • Michigan Law Review Vol. 115 Nbr. 2, November - November 2016
    • 1 de Novembro de 2016
    ..."). See, e.g., Murphy v. Waterfront Comm'n, 378 U.S. 52, 58-59 (1964) (citing cases dating back to the Court of Exchequer to support the holding that the privilege against self-incrimination protects a witness from being compelled to give testimony); Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 376 (1964) ("I......
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    ...507-08 (Harlan, J., dissenting). (153.) See 3 JOHN HENRY WIGMORE, EVIDENCE [section] 824, at 252 (3d ed. 1940). (154.) Rogers v. Richmond, 365 U.S. 534, 540-41 (1961). (155.) See Miranda, 384 U.S. at 440 & n.1. (156.) See id. at 467-68. (157.) See id. (158.) See, e.g., sources cited sup......
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