373 U.S. 723 (1963), 630, Rideau v. Louisiana

Docket Nº:No. 630
Citation:373 U.S. 723, 83 S.Ct. 1417, 10 L.Ed.2d 663
Party Name:Rideau v. Louisiana
Case Date:June 03, 1963
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 723

373 U.S. 723 (1963)

83 S.Ct. 1417, 10 L.Ed.2d 663

Rideau

v.

Louisiana

No. 630

United States Supreme Court

June 3, 1963

Argued April 29, 1963

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF LOUISIANA

Syllabus

A few hours after a man robbed a bank in Lake Charles, La., kidnapped three of the bank's employees, and killed one of them, petitioner was arrested and lodged in the Parish Jail. The next morning, a motion picture film with a sound track was made of an "interview" in the jail between petitioner and the Sheriff of the Parish. This "interview" lasted approximately 20 minutes, and consisted of interrogation by the Sheriff and admissions by petitioner that he had perpetrated the bank robbery, kidnapping, and murder. Later the same day and on the succeeding two days, the filmed "interview" was broadcast over the local television station and was seen and heard by many people in the Parish. Subsequently, petitioner was arraigned on charges of armed robbery, kidnapping, and murder, and two lawyers were appointed to represent him. They promptly filed a motion for change of venue, but this was denied and petitioner was convicted in the trial court of the Parish and sentenced to death on the murder charge.

Held: It was a denial of due process of law to refuse the request for a change of venue after the people of the Parish had been exposed repeatedly and in depth to the spectacle of the petitioner personally confessing in detail to the crimes with which he was later to be charged. Pp. 723-727.

242 La. 431, 137 So.2d 283, reversed.

STEWART, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

On the evening of February 16, 1961, a man robbed a bank in Lake Charles, Louisiana, kidnapped three of the

Page 724

bank's employees, and killed one of them. A few hours later, the petitioner, Wilbert Rideau, was apprehended by the police and lodged in the Calcasieu Parish jail in Lake Charles. The next morning, a moving picture film with a sound track was made of an "interview" in the jail between Rideau and the Sheriff of Calcasieu Parish. This "interview" lasted approximately 20 minutes. It consisted of interrogation by the sheriff and admissions by Rideau that he had perpetrated the bank robbery, kidnapping, and murder. Later the same day, the filmed "interview" was broadcast over a television station in Lake Charles, and some 24,000 people in the community saw and heard it on television. The sound film was again shown on television the next day to an estimated audience of 53,000 people. The following day, the film was again broadcast by the same television station, and this time approximately 20,000 people saw and heard the "interview" on their television sets. Calcasieu Parish has a population of approximately 150,000 people.

Some two weeks later, Rideau was arraigned on charges of armed robbery, kidnapping, and murder, and two lawyers were appointed to represent him. His lawyers promptly filed a motion for a change of venue on the ground that it would deprive Rideau of rights guaranteed to him by the United States Constitution to force him to trial in Calcasieu Parish after the three television broadcasts there of his "interview" with the sheriff.1 After a hearing, the motion for change of venue was denied, and

Page 725

Rideau was accordingly convicted and sentenced to death on the murder charge in the Calcasieu Parish trial court.

Three members of the jury which convicted him had stated on voir dire that they had seen and heard Rideau's televised "interview" with the sheriff on at least one occasion. Two members of the jury were deputy sheriffs of Calcasieu Parish. Rideau's counsel had requested that these jurors be excused for cause, having exhausted all of their peremptory challenges, but these challenges for cause had been denied by the trial judge. The judgment of conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Louisiana, 242 La. 431, 137 So.2d 283, and the case is here on a writ of certiorari, 371 U.S. 919.

The record in this case contains as an exhibit the sound film which was broadcast. [83 S.Ct. 1419] What the people of Calcasieu Parish saw on their television sets was Rideau, in jail, flanked by the sheriff and two state troopers, admitting in detail the commission of the robbery, kidnapping, and murder in response to leading questions by the sheriff.2 The record fails to show whose idea it was to make the sound film and broadcast it over the local television station, but we know from the conceded circumstances that the plan was carried out with the active cooperation and participation of the local law enforcement officers. And certainly no one has suggested that it was Rideau's idea, or even that he was aware of what was going on when the sound film was being made.

Page 726

In the view we take of this case, the question of who originally initiated the idea of the televised interview is, in any event, a basically irrelevant detail. For we hold that it was a denial of due process of law to refuse the request for a change of venue, after the people of Calcasieu Parish had been exposed repeatedly and in depth to the spectacle of Rideau personally confessing in detail to the crimes with which he was later to be charged. For anyone who has ever watched television, the conclusion cannot be avoided that...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP