76 S.Ct. 1058 (1956), 23, Edwards v. People of The State of New York

Docket NºNo. 23, Misc.
Citation76 S.Ct. 1058, 1 L.Ed.2d 17
Party NameErnest Lee EDWARDS v. PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK.
Case DateJune 25, 1956
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 1058

76 S.Ct. 1058 (1956)

1 L.Ed.2d 17

Ernest Lee EDWARDS

v.

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK.

No. 23, Misc.

United States Supreme Court.

June 25, 1956

OPINION

Page 1059

Mr. Justice HARLAN, Circuit Justice.

I am asked to stay, pending certiorari proceedings in this Court, the execution of the death sentence imposed upon petitioner by reason of his conviction in the New York state courts of first degree murder. Petitioner's conviction was unanimously affirmed by the New York Court of Appeals on February 16, 1956, 309 N.Y. 1020, 133 N.E.2d 462.

On March 30 last, upon petitioner's pro se application, 76 S.Ct. 538, 1 stayed execution of the sentence, then set to be carried out the week of April 9, upon terms which would have assured that his then contemplated petition for certiorari would be acted on by the Court before the October 1955 Term ended in June. See my Memorandum of March 30, 1956, 76 S.Ct. 538. On April 19, upon the request of petitioner's new counsel, I vacated that stay to enable counsel to make a motion for reargument of the appeal in the Court of Appeals. That motion, made on April 26, was unanimously denied by the Court of Appeals on May 31, 135 N.E.2d 719. Meanwhile, on May 16, counsel filed a timely petition for certiorari to review the original affirmance of the judgment of conviction by the Court of Appeals. Counsel state that they also intend to petition for certiorari to review the Court of Appeals' denial of reargument. On June 13 Judge Fuld of the Court of Appeals, denied petitioner's application for a stay of the execution, now scheduled for the week beginning June 25, pending the determination of such proceedings in this Court. The present application to me followed.

Petitioner claims that he was denied 'due process' because of a number of episodes occurring at the trial. These episodes involve: (1) the trial court's remarks as to the jury's verdict being subject to appellate review, if the jury convicted the defendant; (2) the newspaper publicity relating to the jury's inspection of the murder scene; (3) the alleged bias of the trial Judge; (4) the alleged perjury of the prosecution's principal witness, an admitted accomplice in the crime; (5) the alleged inadequate corroboration of the accomplice's testimony under New York law; and (6) alleged erroneous instructions by the trial Court as to the credibility of the accomplice.

To deny this application it is not enough for me to conclude, as I do, that none of the matters raised presents a substantial federal question. Rather, what I must determine is whether any of these matters is sufficiently debatable to lead to the belief that at least four members of the Court would vote to grant certiorari. After studying the papers submitted, examining the record anew, and hearing counsel on oral argument, I am convinced that I would not be justified in concluding that any of the questions presented could reasonably be deemed to command such support.

As to (1): Before selection of the jury commenced the trial court addressed some general remarks to the entire panel, during the course of which he said:

'Is there any man here who has any conscientious scruples against the death penalty? Everyone knows that in the State of New York, if this man if convicted and his conviction is upheld by the higher courts, he will be excuted.' (Fol. 236.)

Page 1060

Following objection by defense counsel, the Court then stated:

'* * * Gentlemen, if the judgment in this case stands, the punishment will be death, as fixed by law. Everybody knows that.

'Is there any person in the room here who has any conscientious scruples against the death penalty?' (Fol. 237.)

On the following day, the Court further told the jury:

'I made the statement yesterday: 'Everyone knows that in the State of New York if this man is convicted and his conviction is upheld by the higher courts, he will be executed.' A motion by defense counsel was made to discharge the panel, which I denied. My intention in making the statement which I did to this panel was to emphasize the great and awesome responsibility in your hands, that in deciding this case a verdict of guilty may mean that the defendant will be executed. It was my intention to emphasize that because of the possible death penalty. Yours is the supreme responsibility as the judge of the facts.

'You are the sole judges of the facts in this case, and yours is the sole responsibility to decide the guilt or innocence of this defendant. The jury has nothing to do with appeals. Your deliberation cannot be in any way affected by any tribunal other than this courtroom. You cannot share your responsibility with anyone--not even with this or any other court. Any appeal in this case, or in any other case, concerns only questions of law with which you are not concerned. Jurors have task enough to find the truth and determine it by their deliberation, without regard to ultimate consequences. Nothing can be permitted to weaken the jurors' sense of obligation in the performance of their duties. It is your duty and obligation to consider this case with a full appreciation of your responsibility to act as the sole and final judges of the facts. I emphasize the word 'final.' Any citizen who should enter this jury box as a juror in this case, who fails to wholeheartedly assume such full responsibility, would be recreant to the solemn oath that he shall have administered to him.' (Fols. 243--246.)

This episode, in my opinion, presents no tenable due process question.

As to (2): The inspection of the scene of the murder was with the consent of defense counsel and in their presence. No objection to the taking of photographs, or otherwise as to the conduct of the inspection, was made at the time. Indeed, one of the defense counsel allowed his own picture to be taken during the...

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10 practice notes
  • 264 F.Supp. 579 (S.D.N.Y. 1967), 66 Civ. 1328, Sobell v. United States
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Southern District of New York
    • February 14, 1967
    ...handwriting dated October 23, 1950, and other documentary material. However, these were not submitted. [85] Cf. Edwards v. New York, 76 S.Ct. 1058, 1 L.Ed.2d 17, 21-22 (1956); Price v. Johnston, 334 U.S. 266, 290-291, 68 S.Ct. 1049 (1948); United States v. Abbinanti, 338 F.2d 331, 332 (2d C......
  • 124 So.2d 297 (Miss. 1960), 41547, Goldsby v. State
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • November 10, 1960
    ...that at least four members of the United States Supreme Court would vote to grant certiorari. Edwards v. People of State of N. Y., 1956, 76 S.Ct. 1058, 1 L.Ed.2d 17; Rosenberg v. United States, 346 U.S. 273, 73 S.Ct. 1152, 97 L.Ed. 1607, reconsideration denied 1953, 346 U.S. 324, 73 S.Ct. 1......
  • 559 U.S. 133 (2010), 08-6925, Johnson v. United States
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Supreme Court
    • March 2, 2010
    ...involved the use of violent force, see ante, at 1273-1274, 144-145, 176 L.Ed.2d, at 11-12. As the Government notes, however, this will [1 L.Ed.2d 17] often be impossible because, in those States in which the same battery provision governs both the use of violent force and offensive touching......
  • 163 F.Supp. 417 (D.Md. 1958), 23017, United States v. McGann
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 4th Circuit District of Maryland
    • July 1, 1958
    ...D.C., 142 F.Supp. 638, and United States v. Close, D.C., 140 F.Supp. 373, affirmed 4 Cir., 232 F.2d 889, certiorari denied 351 U.S. 987, 76 S.Ct. 1058, 100 L.Ed. 1501. See, also, United States v. Hayman, 342 U.S. 205, 72 S.Ct. 263, 96 L.Ed. 232. But if it should be thought that the 'all wri......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • 264 F.Supp. 579 (S.D.N.Y. 1967), 66 Civ. 1328, Sobell v. United States
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Southern District of New York
    • February 14, 1967
    ...handwriting dated October 23, 1950, and other documentary material. However, these were not submitted. [85] Cf. Edwards v. New York, 76 S.Ct. 1058, 1 L.Ed.2d 17, 21-22 (1956); Price v. Johnston, 334 U.S. 266, 290-291, 68 S.Ct. 1049 (1948); United States v. Abbinanti, 338 F.2d 331, 332 (2d C......
  • 124 So.2d 297 (Miss. 1960), 41547, Goldsby v. State
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • November 10, 1960
    ...that at least four members of the United States Supreme Court would vote to grant certiorari. Edwards v. People of State of N. Y., 1956, 76 S.Ct. 1058, 1 L.Ed.2d 17; Rosenberg v. United States, 346 U.S. 273, 73 S.Ct. 1152, 97 L.Ed. 1607, reconsideration denied 1953, 346 U.S. 324, 73 S.Ct. 1......
  • 559 U.S. 133 (2010), 08-6925, Johnson v. United States
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Supreme Court
    • March 2, 2010
    ...involved the use of violent force, see ante, at 1273-1274, 144-145, 176 L.Ed.2d, at 11-12. As the Government notes, however, this will [1 L.Ed.2d 17] often be impossible because, in those States in which the same battery provision governs both the use of violent force and offensive touching......
  • 163 F.Supp. 417 (D.Md. 1958), 23017, United States v. McGann
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 4th Circuit District of Maryland
    • July 1, 1958
    ...D.C., 142 F.Supp. 638, and United States v. Close, D.C., 140 F.Supp. 373, affirmed 4 Cir., 232 F.2d 889, certiorari denied 351 U.S. 987, 76 S.Ct. 1058, 100 L.Ed. 1501. See, also, United States v. Hayman, 342 U.S. 205, 72 S.Ct. 263, 96 L.Ed. 232. But if it should be thought that the 'all wri......
  • Request a trial to view additional results