99 F.Supp. 92 (E.D.N.C. 1951), 486, Speller v. Crawford

Docket Nº:486
Citation:99 F.Supp. 92
Party Name:Speller v. Crawford
Case Date:July 13, 1951
Court:United States District Courts, 4th Circuit, Eastern District of North Carolina

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99 F.Supp. 92 (E.D.N.C. 1951)



CRAWFORD, Warden, Central Prison of Raleigh, N.C.

No. 486-B.

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina. Raleigh Division.

July 13, 1951

Judgments Affirmed Nov. 5, 1951.

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Herman L. Taylor, Raleigh, N.C., C. J. Gates, Durham, N.C., for petitioner.

Hughes Rhodes, Asst. Atty. Gen., Ralph Moody, Asst. Atty. Gen., R. Brookes Peters, Jr., General Counsel, State Highway & Public Works Commission, Raleigh, N.C., for respondent.

GILLIAM, District Judge

The petitioner, a negro, has been tried three times before a jury in the Superior Court of Bertie County, North Carolina, and convicted on each trial. The bill of indictment upon which he was tried was returned at the August, 1948 Term of the Superior Court of Bertie County by a Grand Jury consisting of members of both the white and negro races, and charged the petitioner with the crime of rape. The petitioner duly appealed to the Supreme Court of North Carolina, from each of the judgments which sentenced him to death; the first appeal is reports as State v. Speller, 229 N.C. 67, 47 S.E.2d 537; and in this case the Supreme Court of North Carolina held that the motion of the defendant to quash the indictment should have been allowed upon the showing that in Bertie County the names of negroes were printed in red and the names of white persons were printed in black, and that in drawing the names from the box the names of negroes were without exception rejected, as such procedure constituted 'systematic and arbitrary exclusion of negroes from the Grand Jury' on account of race. The Supreme Court ordered that the petitioner be held for the finding of an indictment by a proper Grand Jury.

The second appeal is reported as State v. Speller, 230 N.C. 345, 53 S.E.2d 294, 299. On this appeal the Supreme Court granted the petitioner a new trial, stating in its opinion: 'Thus, the record disclosed not only that the prisoner and his attorneys were denied a reasonable opportunity in the light of prevailing conditions to investigate, prepare, and present his defense on the challenge to the array, but also that such denial of such opportunity prejudiced the prisoner's rights.'

The third appeal is reported as State v. Speller, 231 N.C. 549, 57 S.E.2d 759. On this appeal the judgment of death imposed in the Superior Court was affirmed and Chief Justice Stacy, writing for the Court, stated: 'For the third time the defendant appeals from a conviction of rape, without any recommendation from the jury, and sentence of death as the law commands in such cases. * * *

'On the present hearing, all charges of discrimination, jury defect and alleged irregularities, which again constitute the defendant's principal exceptions, have been carefully investigated with ample opportunity afforded the defendant to be heard upon his challenges. * * *

'The case was tried at the August Term, 1949, Bertie Superior Court, before a jury selected from a special venire drawn from Vance County at the instance of the defendant. 'Defendant's counsel suggested that the venire from which the said jury should be selected be summoned from the most remote county in the Third Judicial District, the same being Vance County'.

'It was made to appear that on the first Monday in July, 1949, the Commissioners of Vance County had purged the jury lists of their county and in full compliance with the law had placed the names of persons of both the white and the colored races in the jury box without discrimination of any kind. On the special venire drawn to try the instant case there appeared the names of seven Negroes, the race to which the defendant belongs. It is not the right of any party to be tried by a jury of his own race, or to have a representative of any particular race on the jury. It is his right, however, to be tried by a competent jury from which members of his race have not been unlawfully excluded. * * * No such exclusion appears here. The challenge to the array

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was properly overruled on the findings made by the trial court, which are amply supported by the evidence and are without sufficient challenge under the rules. * * *

'The exceptions to the charge are reckless and are patently without merit. They are not sustained. The court was careful to call to the attention of the jury Chap. 299, Session Laws 1949, providing that 'if the jury shall so recommend at the time of rendering its verdict in open court, the punishment (for rape) shall be imprisonment for life in the State's prison, and the court shall so instruct the jury.' Notwithstanding the instruction, the jury did not see fit to make such a recommendation.'

Upon the affirmation by the Supreme Court of North Carolina of petitioner's third conviction and sentence, application was filed with the Supreme Court of the United States for a writ of certiorari to review the decision of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, and on the 9th day of October, 1950, the Supreme Court of the United States denied the application, 340 U.S. 835, 71 S.Ct. 18. The application for such writ was based upon the same facts, arguments and contentions as to the law which the petitioner now requests this Court to review upon this petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

When this case was called for trial at the August Term, 1949, of the Superior Court of Bertie County, the presiding Judge, in compliance with the petitioner's motion, ordered 'that a special venire from Vance County be summoned by the Sheriff of Vance County to attend at the Court House at Windsor, North Carolina, at 10:30 A.M. on the 31st day of August, 1949, to serve as jurors in said action', and ordered 'the Clerk to the Board of County Commissioners of Vance County to cause one hundred scrolls to be drawn from box No. 1 by a child under ten years of age, and the names so drawn shall constitute the special venire, and the Clerk of the Superior Court of Vance County shall insert their names in a writ of venire and deliver the same to the Sheriff of Vance County, and the persons named in the writ and no others shall be summoned by the Sheriff of Vance county to be and appear at the Court House in Windsor in Bertie County at 10:30 A.M. on the 31st day of August, 1949. That the said venire shall be drawn as aforesaid in the presence of the defendant, Raleigh Speller, and at least one of his attorneys and the Solicitor of this Judicial District, at 4:30 P.M. on the 29th day of August, 1949.'

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