433 U.S. 72 (1977), 75-1578, Wainwright v. Sykes

Docket Nº:No. 75-1578
Citation:433 U.S. 72, 97 S.Ct. 2497, 53 L.Ed.2d 594
Party Name:Wainwright v. Sykes
Case Date:June 23, 1977
Court:United States Supreme Court

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433 U.S. 72 (1977)

97 S.Ct. 2497, 53 L.Ed.2d 594




No. 75-1578

United States Supreme Court

June 23, 1977

Argued March 29, 1977




During respondent's trial for murder, inculpatory statements made by him to police officers were admitted into evidence. No challenge was made on the ground that respondent had not understood warnings read to him pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, nor did the trial judge sua sponte question their admissibility or hold a factfinding hearing. Respondent, who was convicted, did not challenge the admissibility of the statements on appeal, though later he did so, unavailingly, in a motion to vacate the conviction and in state habeas corpus petitions. He then brought this federal habeas corpus action under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, asserting the inadmissibility of his statements by reason of his lack of understanding of the Miranda warnings. The District Court ruled that, under Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, respondent had a right to a hearing in the [97 S.Ct. 2499] state court on the voluntariness of the statements, and that he had not lost that right by failing to assert his claim at trial or on appeal. The Court of Appeals agreed that respondent was entitled to a Jackson v. Denno hearing, and ruled that respondent's failure to comply with Florida's procedural "contemporaneous objection rule" (which, except as specified, requires a defendant to make a motion to suppress evidence prior to trial) would not bar review of the suppression claim unless the right to object was deliberately bypassed for tactical reasons.

Held: Respondent's failure to make timely objection under the Florida contemporaneous objection rule to the admission of his inculpatory statements, absent a showing of cause for the noncompliance and some showing of actual prejudice, bars federal habeas corpus review of his Miranda claim. Davis v. United States, 411 U.S. 233; Francis v. Henderson, 425 U.S. 536. Pp. 77-91.

(a) Florida's rule, in unmistakable terms and with specified exceptions, requires that motions to suppress be raised before trial. P. 85.

(b) There is no constitutional requirement in Jackson v. Denno, supra, or later cases that there be a voluntariness hearing absent some contemporaneous challenge to the use of a confession. P. 86.

(c) The sweeping language set forth in Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391,

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which would render a State's contemporaneous objection rule ineffective to bar review of underlying federal claims in federal habeas corpus proceedings -- absent a "knowing waiver" or a "deliberate bypass" of the right to so object -- is rejected as according too little respect to the state contemporaneous objection rule. Such a rule enables the record to be made with respect to a constitutional claim when witnesses' recollections are freshest; enables the trial judge who observed the demeanor of witnesses to make the factual determinations necessary for properly deciding the federal question; and may, by forcing a trial court decision on the merits of federal constitutional contentions, contribute to the finality of criminal litigation. Conversely, the rule of Fay v. Noia may encourage defense lawyers to take their chances on a verdict of not guilty in a state trial court, intending to raise their constitutional claims in a federal habeas corpus court if their initial gamble fails, and detracts from the perception of the trial of a criminal case as a decisive and portentous event. Pp. 87-90.

(d) Adoption of the "cause" and "prejudice" test of Francis, while giving greater respect than did Fay to the operation of state contemporaneous objection rules, affords an adequate guarantee that federal habeas corpus courts will not be barred from hearing claims involving an actual miscarriage of justice. The procedural history of this case and the evidence as presented at trial indicate that there exist here neither "cause" nor "prejudice" as are necessary to support federal habeas corpus review of the underlying constitutional contention. Pp. 90-91.

528 F.2d 522, reversed and remanded.

REHNQUIST, J, delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., post, p. 91, and STEVENS, J., post, p. 94, filed concurring opinions. WHITE, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 97. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 99.

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REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari to consider the availability of federal habeas corpus to review a state convict's claim that testimony was admitted at his trial in violation of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), a claim which the Florida courts have previously refused to consider on the merits because of noncompliance with a state contemporaneous objection rule. Petitioner Wainwright, on behalf of the State of Florida, [97 S.Ct. 2500] here challenges a decision of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ordering a hearing in state court on the merits of respondent's contention.

Respondent Sykes was convicted of third-degree murder after a jury trial in the Circuit Court of DeSoto County. He testified at trial that, on the evening of January 8, 1972, he told his wife to summon the police because he had just shot Willie Gilbert. Other evidence indicated that, when the police arrived at respondent's trailer home, they found Gilbert dead of a shotgun wound, lying a few feet from the front porch. Shortly after their arrival, respondent came from across the road and volunteered that he had shot Gilbert, and a few minutes later respondent's wife approached the police and told them the same thing. Sykes was immediately arrested and taken to the police station.

Once there, it is conceded that he was read his Miranda rights, and that he declined to seek the aid of counsel and indicated a desire to talk. He then made a statement, which was admitted into evidence at trial through the testimony of the two officers who heard it,1 to the effect that he had shot Gilbert from the front porch of his trailer home; there were several references during the trial to respondent's consumption

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of alcohol during the preceding day and to his apparent state of intoxication, facts which were acknowledged by the officers who arrived at the scene. At no time during the trial, however, was the admissibility of any of respondent's statements challenged by his counsel on the ground that respondent had not understood the Miranda warnings.2 Nor did the trial judge question their admissibility on his own motion or hold a factfinding hearing bearing on that issue.

Respondent appealed his conviction, but apparently did not challenge the admissibility of the inculpatory statements.3 He later filed in the trial court a motion to vacate the conviction and, in the State District Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, petitions for habeas corpus. These filings, apparently for the first time, challenged the statements made to police on grounds of involuntariness. In all of these efforts, respondent was unsuccessful.

Having failed in the Florida courts, respondent initiated the present action under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, asserting the inadmissibility of his statements by reason of his lack of understanding of the Miranda warnings.4 The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida ruled that Jackson v. Denno,

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378 U.S. 368 (1964), requires a hearing in a state criminal trial prior to the admission of an inculpatory out-of-court statement by the defendant. It held further that respondent had not lost his right to assert such a claim by failing to object at trial or on direct appeal, since only "exceptional circumstances" of "strategic decisions at trial" can create such a bar to raising federal [97 S.Ct. 2501] constitutional claims in a federal habeas action. The court stayed issuance of the writ to allow the state court to hold a hearing on the "voluntariness" of the statements.

Petitioner warden appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. That court first considered the nature of the right to exclusion of statements made without a knowing waiver of the right to counsel and the right not to incriminate oneself. It noted that Jackson v. Denno, supra, guarantees a right to a hearing on whether a defendant has knowingly waived his rights as described to him in the Miranda warnings, and stated that, under Florida law "[t]he burden is on the State to secure [a] prima facie determination of voluntariness, not upon the defendant to demand it." 528 F.2d 522, 525 (1976).

The court then directed its attention to the effect on respondent's right of Florida Rule Crim.Proc. 3.190(i),5 which it described as "a contemporaneous objection rule" applying to motions to suppress a defendant's inculpatory statements.

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It focused on this Court's decisions in Henry v. Mississippi, 379 U.S. 443 (1965); Davis v. United States, 411 U.S. 233 (1973); and Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391 (1963), and concluded that the failure to comply with the rule requiring objection at the trial would only bar review of the suppression claim where the right to object was deliberately bypassed for reasons relating to trial tactics. The Court of Appeals distinguished our decision in Davis, supra, (where failure to comply with a rule requiring pretrial objection to the indictment was found to bar habeas review of the underlying constitutional claim absent showing of cause for the failure and prejudice resulting), for the reason that "[a] major tenet of the Davis decision was that no prejudice was shown" to have resulted from the failure to object. It found that prejudice is "inherent" in any situation, like...

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