Carter v. People of State of Illinois, No. 36

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtFRANKFURTER
Citation91 L.Ed. 172,329 U.S. 173,67 S.Ct. 216
Decision Date09 December 1946
Docket NumberNo. 36
PartiesCARTER v. PEOPLE OF STATE OF ILLINOIS

329 U.S. 173
67 S.Ct. 216
91 L.Ed. 172
CARTER

v.

PEOPLE OF STATE OF ILLINOIS.

No. 36.
Argued Nov. 15, 1946.
Decided Dec. 9, 1946.

Mr. Stephen A. Mitchell, of Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.

Page 174

Mr. William C. Wines, of Chicago, Ill., for respondent.

Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1928 petitioner pleaded guilty to an indictment for murder and was sentenced to imprisonment for 99 years. In 1945 he brought a petition for his release on writ of error in the Supreme Court of Illinois claiming that the conviction on which his confinement was based was vitiated by the denial of his right under the Fourteenth Amendment to the assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court of Illinois affirmed the original judgment of conviction. 391 Ill. 594, 63 N.E.2d 763. In view of the importance of the claim, if valid, we brought the case here. 328 U.S. 827, 66 S.Ct. 1009.

In a series of cases of which Moore v. Dempsey, 261 U.S. 86, 43 S.Ct. 265, 67 L.Ed. 543, was the first, and Ashcraft v. State of Tennessee, 327 U.S. 274, 66 S.Ct. 544, the latest, we have sustained an appeal to the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment for a fair ascertainment of guilt or innocence. Inherent in the notion of fairness is ample opportunity to meet an accusation. Under pertinent circumstances, the opportunity is ample only when an accused has the assistance of counsel for his defense. And the need for such assistance may exist at every stage of the prosecution, from arraignment to sentencing. This does not, however, mean that the accused may not make his own defense; nor does it prevent him from acknowledging guilt when fully advised of all its implications and capable of understanding them. Neither the historic conception of Due Process nor the vitality it derives from progressive standards of justice denies a person the right to defend himself or to confess guilt. Under appropriate circumstances the Constitution requires that counsel be tendered; it does not require that under all cir-

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cumstances counsel be forced upon a defendant. United States ex rel. McCann v. Adams, 320 U.S. 220, 64 S.Ct. 14, 88 L.Ed. 4.

The solicitude for securing justice thus embodied in the Due Process Clause is not satisfied by formal compliance or merely procedural regularity. It is not conclusive that the proceedings resulting in incarceration are unassailable on the face of the record. A State must give one whom it deprives of his freedom the opportunity to open an inquiry into the intrinsic fairness of a criminal process even though it appears proper on the surface. Mooney v. Holohan, 294 U.S. 103, 55 S.Ct. 340, 79 L.Ed. 791, 98 A.L.R. 406. Questions of fundamental justice protected by the Due Process Clause may be raised, to use lawyers' language, dehors the record.

But the Due Process Clause has never been perverted so as to force upon the forty-eight States a uniform code of criminal procedure. Except for the limited scope of the federal criminal code, the prosecution of crime is a matter for the individual States. The Constitution commands the States to assure fair judgment. Procedural details for securing fairness it leaves to the States. It is for them, therefore, to choose the methods and practices by which crime is brought to book, so long as they observe those ultimate dignities of man which the United States Constitution assures. Brown v. State of New Jersey, 175 U.S. 172, 175, 20 S.Ct. 77, 78, 44 L.Ed. 119; State of Missouri v. Lewis, 101 U.S. 22, 31, 25 L.Ed. 989. Wide discretion must be left to the States for the manner of adjudicating a claim that a conviction is unconstitutional. States are free to devise their own systems of review in criminal cases. A State may decide whether to have direct appeals in such cases, and if so under what circumstances. McKane v. Durston, 153 U.S. 684, 687, 14 S.Ct. 913, 915, 38 L.Ed. 867. In respecting the duty laid upon them by Mooney v. Holohan, the States have a wide choice of remedies. A State may provide that the protection of rights granted by the Federal Constitution be sought through the writ of habeas corpus or coram nobis.

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It may use each of these ancient writs in its common law scope, or it may put them to new uses; or, it may afford remedy by a simple motion brought either in the court of original conviction or at the place of detention. See, e.g., New York ex rel. Whitman v. Wilson, 318 U.S. 688, 63 S.Ct. 840, 87 L.Ed. 1083; Matter of Lyons v. Goldstein, 290 N.Y. 19, 25, 47 N.E.2d 425, 146 A.L.R. 1422; Matter of Morhous v. New York Supreme Court, 293 N.Y. 131, 56 N.E.2d 79; People v. Gersewitz, 294 N.Y. 163, 168, 61 N.E.2d 427; Matter of Hogan v. Court of General Sessions, 296 N.Y. 1, 9, 68 N.E.2d 849. So long as the rights under the United States Constitution may be pursued, it is for a State and not for this Court to define the mode by which they may be vindicated.

An accused may have been denied the assistance of counsel under circumstances which constitute an infringement of the United States Constitution. If the State affords no mode for redressing that wrong, he may come to the federal courts for relief. But where a remedy is provided by the State, a defendant must first exhaust it in the manner in which the State prescribes. Ex parte Hawk, 321 U.S. 114, 64 S.Ct. 448, 88 L.Ed. 572; House v. Mayo, 324 U.S. 42, 65 S.Ct. 517, 89 L.Ed. 739. For the relation of the United States and the courts of the United States to the States and the courts of the States is a very delicate matter. See Ex parte Royall, 117 U.S. 241, 251, 6 S.Ct. 734, 740, 29 L.Ed. 868. When a defendant, as here, invokes a remedy provided by the State of Illinois the decision of the local court must be judged on the basis of the scope of the remedy provided and what the court properly had before it in such a proceeding. Woods v. Nierstheimer, 328 U.S. 211, 66 S.Ct. 996. The only thing before the Illinois Supreme Court was what is known under Illinois practice as the common law record. That record, as certified in this case, included only the indictment, the judgment on plea of guilty, the minute entry bearing on sentence, and the sentence. And so the very narrow question now before us is whether this common law record establishes that the defendant's sentence is

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void because in the proceedings that led to it he was denied the assistance of counsel.

This case is quite different from a case like Rice v. Olson, 324 U.S. 786, 65 S.Ct. 989, 89 L.Ed. 1367. In that case the record properly before this Court contained specific allegations bearing on the disabilities of the defendant to stand prosecution without the aid of counsel. There was not, as we have here, an unchallenged finding by the trial court that the accused was duly apprised of his rights and, in awareness of them, chose to plead guilty. The judgment against Carter explicitly states:

'And the said defendant Harice Leroy Carter commonly known as Roy Carter having been duly arraigned and being called upon to plead expresses a desire to plead guilty to the crime of murder as charged in the indictment. Thereupon the Court fully explained to the Defendant Harice Leroy Carter commonly known as Roy Carter the consequence of such plea and of all his rights in the premises including the right to have a lawyer appointed by the Court to defend him and also of his right to a trial before a jury of twelve jurors sworn in open Court and of the degree of proof that would be required to justify a verdict of guilty against him under the plea of not guilty but the defendant Harice Leroy Carter commonly known as Roy Carter persists in his desire to plead guilty and for a plea says he is guilty in manner and form as charged in the indictment.'

This, then, is not a case in which intelligent waiver of counsel is a tenuous inference from the mere fact of a plea of guilty. Rice v. Olson, supra, 324 U.S. at page 788, 65 S.Ct. at page 990, 89 L.Ed. 1367. A fair reading of the judgment against Carter indicates a judicial attestation that the accused, with his rights fully explained to him, consciously chose to dispense with counsel. And there is nothing in the record to contradict the judicial

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finding. From the common law record, we do not know what manner of man the defendant was. Facts bearing on his maturity or capacity of comprehension or on the circumstances under which a plea of guilty was tendered and accepted are wholly wanting. We have only the fact that the trial judge explained what the plea of guilty involved. To be sure, the record does not show that the trial court spelled out with laborious detail the various degrees of homicide under Illinois law and the various defenses open to one accused of murder. But the Constitution of the United States does not require of a judge that he recite with particularity that he performed his duty.

The only peg on which the defendant seeks to hang a claim that his right to counsel was denied is the fact that the judge did assign him counsel when it came to sentencing. From this fact alone, we are asked to draw the inference that the accused was not capable of understanding the proceedings which led to his plea of guilty, and was therefore deprived of the indispensable assistance of counsel. We cannot take such a jump in reasoning. A trial court may justifiably be convinced that a defendant knows what he is about when he pleads guilty and that he rightly believes that a trial is futile because a defense is wanting. But the imposition of sentence presents quite different considerations. There a judge usually moves within a large area of discretion and doubts. Such is the situation under Illinois law. The range of punishment which a judge in Illinois may impose for murder is between fourteen years and death. It is a commonplace that no more difficult task confronts judges than the determination of punishment not fixed by statute. Even the most...

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176 practice notes
  • United States ex rel. Miner v. Erickson, No. 19977.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • June 5, 1970
    ...at 441; S.D.Comp.Laws § 23-2-7 (1967); and S.D.Code of 1939 § 34.2905 (Supp.1960). All this echoes the general law. Carter v. Illinois, 329 U.S. 173, 67 S.Ct. 216, 91 L.Ed. 172 (1946); Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 490 n. 14, 84 S.Ct. 1758, 12 L.Ed.2d 977 (1964); Butler v. United Stat......
  • State v. Patterson, Nos. 10752
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • June 26, 1995
    ...of the due process clause. See Gardner v. Florida, 430 U.S. 349, 358, 97 S.Ct. 1197, 1204-05, 51 L.Ed.2d 393 (1977); Carter v. Illinois, 329 U.S. 173, 178, 67 S.Ct. 216, 220, 91 L.Ed. 172 (1946); Consiglio v. Warden, 153 Conn. 673, 676, 220 A.2d 269 (1966). "Although a criminal defenda......
  • State v. Berrill, No. 23050
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 14, 1996
    ...judge may well want to bring to his aid every consideration that counsel for the accused can appropriately urge. Carter v. Illinois, 329 U.S. 173, 178, 67 S.Ct. 216, 220, 91 L.Ed. 172, 176 (1946). The record below reveals that neither Mr. Berrill nor his counsel were given the opportunity t......
  • State ex rel. Stewart v. Blair and Smith, No. 40316.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • November 10, 1947
    ...956, p. 544. 13. Adamson v. People (Calif.), 91 L. Ed. 1464, 1469(2), 1472(6), 67 S. Ct. 1672, 1676(3), 1678(10); Carter v. People (Ill.), 329 U.S. 173, 91 L. Ed. 157, 159 (1-2), 67 S. Ct. 216, 14. Carter v. People, last cited; Hawk v. Olson, 326 U.S. 271, 274, 90 L. Ed. 61, 66 S. Ct. 116; ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
174 cases
  • United States ex rel. Miner v. Erickson, No. 19977.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • June 5, 1970
    ...at 441; S.D.Comp.Laws § 23-2-7 (1967); and S.D.Code of 1939 § 34.2905 (Supp.1960). All this echoes the general law. Carter v. Illinois, 329 U.S. 173, 67 S.Ct. 216, 91 L.Ed. 172 (1946); Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 490 n. 14, 84 S.Ct. 1758, 12 L.Ed.2d 977 (1964); Butler v. United Stat......
  • State v. Patterson, Nos. 10752
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • June 26, 1995
    ...of the due process clause. See Gardner v. Florida, 430 U.S. 349, 358, 97 S.Ct. 1197, 1204-05, 51 L.Ed.2d 393 (1977); Carter v. Illinois, 329 U.S. 173, 178, 67 S.Ct. 216, 220, 91 L.Ed. 172 (1946); Consiglio v. Warden, 153 Conn. 673, 676, 220 A.2d 269 (1966). "Although a criminal defendant is......
  • State v. Berrill, No. 23050
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 14, 1996
    ...judge may well want to bring to his aid every consideration that counsel for the accused can appropriately urge. Carter v. Illinois, 329 U.S. 173, 178, 67 S.Ct. 216, 220, 91 L.Ed. 172, 176 (1946). The record below reveals that neither Mr. Berrill nor his counsel were given the opportunity t......
  • State ex rel. Stewart v. Blair and Smith, No. 40316.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • November 10, 1947
    ...956, p. 544. 13. Adamson v. People (Calif.), 91 L. Ed. 1464, 1469(2), 1472(6), 67 S. Ct. 1672, 1676(3), 1678(10); Carter v. People (Ill.), 329 U.S. 173, 91 L. Ed. 157, 159 (1-2), 67 S. Ct. 216, 14. Carter v. People, last cited; Hawk v. Olson, 326 U.S. 271, 274, 90 L. Ed. 61, 66 S. Ct. 116; ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • The Supreme Court as Protector of Civil Rights: Criminal Justice
    • United States
    • ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, The Nbr. 275-1, May 1951
    • May 1, 1951
    ...Taylor v. Ala- dissenting, Jackson, J., not participating; bama, 335 U. S. 252 (1948)—Douglas, Murphy, Carter v. Illinois, 329 U. S. 173 Rutledge, JJ., dissenting, Black, J., not par- Douglas, Murphy, Rutledge, JJ., dissenting; ticipating. (Cf. Taylor v. Dennis, 336 U. S. Quicksall v.......

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