386 U.S. 707 (1967), 648, Clewis v. Texas

Docket Nº:No. 648
Citation:386 U.S. 707, 87 S.Ct. 1338, 18 L.Ed.2d 423
Party Name:Clewis v. Texas
Case Date:April 24, 1967
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 707

386 U.S. 707 (1967)

87 S.Ct. 1338, 18 L.Ed.2d 423




No. 648

United States Supreme Court

April 24, 1967

Argued March 15, 1967



Petitioner was convicted of murder after a trial in which his confession was introduced in evidence over his objection that it was not voluntary. The conviction was affirmed on appeal.

Held: On the "totality of the circumstances" in this case, the confession cannot be held to have been voluntary, and its use as evidence against petitioner deprived him of due process of law. Cf. Davis v. North Carolina, 384 U.S. 737 (1966).

Pp. 708-712.

415 S.W.2d 654, reversed.

FORTAS, J., lead opinion

[87 S.Ct. 1339] MR. JUSTICE FORTAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner, Marvin Peterson Clewis, stands convicted of the murder, bye strangulation, of his wife, Dorothy Mae Clewis. The jury which found him guilty imposed a sentence of 25 years' imprisonment. During the course of his trial, petitioner moved to exclude from evidence three statements he had made while in police custody. Petitioner claimed that these statements had not been voluntarily made, and that their use against him at his trial would deny him due process of law, as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.1 Evidence was taken by the court outside of the jury's

Page 708

presence, and the motion was overruled.2 Petitioner's third, and last, written confession was then introduced in evidence over objection. The question of its voluntariness was presented to the jury, which, by its general verdict, resolved the question against petitioner. Petitioner's constitutional objection to the use of his statement was renewed in his motions for instructed verdict and for a new trial, both of which the trial judge overruled. On appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas affirmed the judgment of conviction. That court reviewed the record and concluded that it could not hold "that there are any undisputed facts which rendered the confession inadmissible as a matter of law." We disagree, and we reverse.

The question for determination is whether, considering the "totality of the circumstances,"3 Marvin Clewis' statements were not voluntary and the third statement should have been excluded. We approach this question from an independent examination of the whole record, our established practice in these cases.4 Our recent observation in Davis v. North Carolina, 384 U.S. 737, 741 (1966), applies equally here:

As is almost invariably so in cases involving confessions obtained through unobserved police interrogation, there is a conflict in the testimony as to the events surrounding the interrogations.

For the purpose of deciding this case, we need not go beyond the State's version of the facts. Accordingly,

Page 709

we do not consider petitioner's claim that he was subjected to physical assaults.

The trial of this case was prior to the date of decision of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), the requirements of which, therefore, are not directly applicable, Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719 (1966), although relevant on the issue of voluntariness, Davis v. North Carolina, 384 U.S. 737 (1966).

Petitioner was taken into custody at about 6 a.m. on Sunday, July 8, 1962, and first gave a statement to the police late in the afternoon of Monday, July 9...

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