373 U.S. 420 (1963), 513, Norvell v. Illinois

Docket Nº:No. 513
Citation:373 U.S. 420, 83 S.Ct. 1366, 10 L.Ed.2d 456
Party Name:Norvell v. Illinois
Case Date:May 27, 1963
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 420

373 U.S. 420 (1963)

83 S.Ct. 1366, 10 L.Ed.2d 456




No. 513

United States Supreme Court

May 27, 1963

Argued April 24, 1963



In applying the doctrine of Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12, to a situation where no transcript of the trial of an indigent defendant is available due to the death of the court reporter, a State may, without violation of the Due Process or Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, deny relief to an indigent prisoner who had a lawyer at his trial and presumably had the lawyer's continuing services for purposes of appeal, and yet failed to pursue an appeal. Pp. 420-424.

25 Ill.2d 169, 182 N.E.2d 719, affirmed.

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner was convicted of murder in the Illinois courts in 1941, and sentenced to 199 years in prison. Though indigent, he had a lawyer at the trial.

On the date of the sentence, the docket entry reads: "Defendant Willie Norvell's motion for allowance of 90 days' time in which to prepare and file his bill of exceptions allowed." Presumably petitioner's lawyer made that motion, though the record does not indicate one way or the other. Petitioner tried to get a transcript. But again, whether he acted on his own or through his lawyer we do not know. We do know, however, that, because he

Page 421

was indigent, he was unable to pay the costs of the transcript, and therefore did not obtain it, and he did not, moreover, pursue an appeal.

In 1956, we decided Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12, holding on the facts of that case that it was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to deprive a person because of his indigency of any rights of appeal afforded all other convicted defendants. And see Draper v. Washington, 372 U.S. 487; Eskridge v. Washington, 357 U.S. 214. Cf. Burns v. Ohio, 360 U.S. 252; Smith v. Bennett, 365 U.S. 708. Thereupon, the Supreme Court of Illinois adopted Rule 65-1 (Smith-Hurd's Ill.Ann.Stat., c. 110, § 101.65-1) by which the State provides a free trial transcript to every indigent person convicted of crime, whether he was convicted prior to the Griffin decision or thereafter. An important exception to that rule, applicable here, is the following:

. . . In the event the court finds that it is impossible to furnish petitioner a stenographic transcript of the proceedings at his trial because of the unavailability of the court reporter who reported the proceedings and the inability of any other court reporter to transcribe the notes of the court reporter who served at the trial, or for any other reason, the court shall deny the petition.

Rule 65-1(2).

On motion of petitioner in 1956, the trial court was requested to furnish a stenographic transcript of his trial. The trial judge, finding that petitioner had satisfied the conditions prescribed in the Rule, ordered the official shorthand reporter to transcribe his notes and furnish petitioner with a copy of the transcript. It subsequently appeared, however, that the official reporter in question had died some years earlier, and that no one could read his shorthand notes. An effort was then made to reconstruct the transcript...

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