Brown v. State of Mississippi, No. 301

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtHUGHES
Citation80 L.Ed. 682,56 S.Ct. 461,297 U.S. 278
Decision Date17 February 1936
Docket NumberNo. 301
PartiesBROWN et al. v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

297 U.S. 278
56 S.Ct. 461
80 L.Ed. 682
BROWN et al.

v.

STATE OF MISSISSIPPI.

No. 301.
Argued Jan. 10, 1936.
Decided Feb. 17, 1936.

Page 279

Messrs. Earl Brewer and J. Morgan Stevens, both of Jackson, Miss., for petitioners.

Messrs. W. D. Conn, of Corinth, Miss., and W. H. Maynard, of Baltimore, Md., for respondent.

Mr. Chief Justice HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question in this case is whether convictions, which rest solely upon confessions shown to have been extorted by officers of the state by brutality and violence, are consistent with the due process of law required by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

Petitioners were indicted for the murder of one Raymond Stewart, whose death occurred on March 30, 1934. They were indicted on April 4, 1934, and were then arraigned and pleaded not guilty. Counsel were appointed by the court to defend them. Trial was begun the next morning and was concluded on the following day, when they were found guilty and sentenced to death.

Aside from the confessions, there was no evidence sufficient to warrant the submission of the case to the jury. After a preliminary inquiry, testimony as to the confessions was received over the objection of defendants' counsel. Defendants then testified that the confessions were false and had been procured by physical torture. The case went to the jury with instructions, upon the request of defendants' counsel, that if the jury had reasonable doubt as to the confessions having resulted from coercion, and that they were not they were not to be considered as evidence. On their to the Su-

Page 280

preme Court of the State, defendants assigned as error the inadmissibility of the confessions. The judgment was affirmed. 158 So. 339.

Defendants then moved in the Supreme Court of the State to arrest the judgment and for a new trial on the ground that all the evidence against them was obtained by coercion and brutality known to the court and to the district attorney, and that defendants had been denied the benefit of counsel or opportunity to confer with counsel in a reasonable manner. The motion was supported by affidavits. At about the same time, defendants filed in the Supreme Court a 'suggestion of error' explicitly challenging the proceedings of the trial, in the use of the confessions and with respect to the alleged denial of representation by counsel, as violating the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. The state court entertained the suggestion of error, considered the federal question, and decided it against defendants' contentions. 161 So. 465. Two judges dissented. 161 So. 470. We granted a writ of certiorari. 296 U.S. 559, 56 S.Ct. 128, 80 L.Ed. 394.

The grounds of the decision were (1) that immunity from self-incrimination is not essential to due process of law; and (2) that the failure of the trial court to exclude the confessions after the introduction of evidence showing their incompetency, in the absence of a request for such exclusion, did not deprive the defendants of life or liberty without due process of law; and that even if the trial court had erroneously overruled a motion to exclude the confessions, the ruling would have been mere error reversible on appeal, but not a violation of constitution right. 161 So. 465, at page 468.

The opinion of the state court did not set forth the evidence as to the circumstances in which the confessions were procured. That the evidence established that they were procured by coercion was not questioned. The state

Page 281

court said: 'After the state closed its case on the merits, the appellants, for the first time, introduced evidence from which it appears that the confessions were not made voluntarily but were coerced.' 161 So. 465, at page 466. There is no dispute as to the facts upon this point, and as they are clearly and adequately stated in the dissenting opinion of Judge Griffith (with whom Judge Anderson concurred), showing both the extreme brutality of the measures to extort the confessions and the participation of the state authorities, we quote this part of his opinion in full, as follows (161 So. 465, at pages 470, 471):

'The crime with which these defendants, all ignorant negroes, are charged, was discovered about 1 o'clock p.m. on Friday, March 30, 1934. On that night one Dial, a deputy sheriff, accompanied by others, came to the home of Ellington, one of the defendants, and requested him to accompany them to the house of the deceased, and there a number of white men were gathered, who began to accuse the defendant of the crime. Upon his denial they seized him, and with the participation of the deputy they hanged him by a rope to the limb of a tree, and, having let him down, they hung him again, and when he was let down the second time, and he still protested his innocence, he was tied to a tree and whipped, and, still declining to accede to the demands that he confess, he was finally released, and he returned with some difficulty to his home, suffering intense pain and agony. The record of the testimony shows that the signs of the rope on his neck were plainly visible during the so-called trial. A day or two thereafter the said deputy, accompanied by another, returned to the home of the said defendant and arrested him, and departed with the prisoner towards the jail in an adjoining county, but went by a route which led into the state of Alabama; and while on the way, in that state, the deputy stopped and again severely whipped the defendant, declaring that he would continue the whipping

Page 282

until he confessed, and the defendant then agreed to confess to such a statement as the deputy would dictate, and he did so, after which he was delivered to jail.

'The other two defendants, Ed Brown and Henry Shields, were also arrested and taken to the same jail. On Sunday night, April 1, 1934, the same deputy, accompanied by a number of white men, one of whom was also an officer, and by the jailer, came to the jail, and the two last named defendants were made to strip and they were laid over chairs and their backs were cut to pieces with a leather strap with buckles on it, and they were likewise made by the said deputy definitely to understand that the whipping...

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763 practice notes
  • Miller v. Fenton, No. 83-5530
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • September 28, 1984
    ...held in 1936 that a conviction obtained by means of a confession extracted by violence violates due process of law. Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278, 286, 56 S.Ct. 461, 465, 80 L.Ed. 682 (1936). The interrogators in Brown brazenly admitted their torture. " 'This deputy was put on the stan......
  • U.S. v. Brown, No. 76-1576
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit
    • August 16, 1977
    ...U.S. at 740, 86 S.Ct. 1761. For standards of voluntariness we refer to a pre-Miranda line of cases beginning with Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278, 56 S.Ct. 461, 80 L.Ed. 682 (1936), which held that the admission of an involuntary confession in a criminal prosecution violates due process.......
  • United States v. State of New Jersey, No. 13821
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • August 2, 1963
    ...64 S.Ct. 921, 927, 88 L.Ed. 1192 (1944). See Payne v. Arkansas, 356 U.S. 560, 78 S.Ct. 844, 2 L.Ed.2d 975 (1958); Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278, 56 S.Ct. 461, 80 L.Ed. 682 (1936). A coerced confession is barred whether obtained by physical or mental pressure. Leyra v. Denno, 347 U.S. 5......
  • Withrow v. Williams, No. 91-1030
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 21, 1993
    ...Hogan, 378 U.S. 1, 84 S.Ct. 1489, 12 L.Ed.2d 653, and, over the course of 30 years, beginning with the decision in Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278, 56 S.Ct. 461, 80 L.Ed. 682 (1936), we analyzed the admissibility of confessions in such cases as a question of due process under the Fourtee......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
753 cases
  • Miller v. Fenton, No. 83-5530
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • September 28, 1984
    ...held in 1936 that a conviction obtained by means of a confession extracted by violence violates due process of law. Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278, 286, 56 S.Ct. 461, 465, 80 L.Ed. 682 (1936). The interrogators in Brown brazenly admitted their torture. " 'This deputy was put on the stan......
  • U.S. v. Brown, No. 76-1576
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit
    • August 16, 1977
    ...U.S. at 740, 86 S.Ct. 1761. For standards of voluntariness we refer to a pre-Miranda line of cases beginning with Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278, 56 S.Ct. 461, 80 L.Ed. 682 (1936), which held that the admission of an involuntary confession in a criminal prosecution violates due process.......
  • United States v. State of New Jersey, No. 13821
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • August 2, 1963
    ...64 S.Ct. 921, 927, 88 L.Ed. 1192 (1944). See Payne v. Arkansas, 356 U.S. 560, 78 S.Ct. 844, 2 L.Ed.2d 975 (1958); Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278, 56 S.Ct. 461, 80 L.Ed. 682 (1936). A coerced confession is barred whether obtained by physical or mental pressure. Leyra v. Denno, 347 U.S. 5......
  • Withrow v. Williams, No. 91-1030
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 21, 1993
    ...Hogan, 378 U.S. 1, 84 S.Ct. 1489, 12 L.Ed.2d 653, and, over the course of 30 years, beginning with the decision in Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278, 56 S.Ct. 461, 80 L.Ed. 682 (1936), we analyzed the admissibility of confessions in such cases as a question of due process under the Fourtee......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 books & journal articles
  • A Comparative View of the Law of Interrogation
    • United States
    • International Criminal Justice Review Nbr. 17-1, March 2007
    • March 1, 2007
    ...14, 171-221.Bradley, C. M. (Ed.). (1999). Criminal procedure: A worldwide study. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278 (1936).Bundesgerichtshof [BGH] [Federal Court of Justice] Feb. 27, 1992, BGHSt 38, 214 (F.R.G.).Carter v. Kentucky, 450 U.S. 288 (1981).Che......
  • Torture and the Fifth Amendment
    • United States
    • Criminal Justice Review Nbr. 33-1, March 2008
    • March 1, 2008
    ...The political writings of James Harrington. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.Bram v. United States, 168 U.S. 532 (1897).Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278 (1936).Bufacchi, V., & Arrigo, J. M. (2006). Torture,terrorism and the state: A refutation of the ticking-bomb argument.Journal of Applied ......
  • The Supreme Court and the Deconstitutionalization of the Freedom of Speech Rights of Public Employees
    • United States
    • Review of Public Personnel Administration Nbr. 27-2, June 2007
    • June 1, 2007
    ...prerogativesof public employers.ReferencesBower v. Stewart, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77996 (October 26, 2006).Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278 (1936).Ceballos v. Garcetti, 361 F.3d 1168 (9th Cir. 2004).Chick, L. N. (2006, June 3). Who will tip us off now? The Los Angeles Times,p. B17.Connick......
  • Using State Constitutions to Extend The Rights of Suspects in Criminal Proceedings
    • United States
    • Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice Nbr. 3-3, August 1987
    • August 1, 1987
    ...J. (1977). State constitutions and the protection of individual rights. Harvard Law Review , 90 (3), 489-504. Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U. S. 278 ( 1986-1987)Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (1973). The Criminal Revolution and its Aftermath: 1960-1972 . Washington, DC: Author. Bureau of Nat......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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