Cicenia v. La Gay, No. 177

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtHARLAN
Citation2 L.Ed.2d 1523,78 S.Ct. 1297,357 U.S. 504
Decision Date30 June 1958
Docket NumberNo. 177
PartiesVincent CICENIA, Petitioner, v. R. William LA GAY, Superintendent of New Jersey State Prison Farm at Rahway,New Jersey

357 U.S. 504
78 S.Ct. 1297
2 L.Ed.2d 1523
Vincent CICENIA, Petitioner,

v.

R. William LA GAY, Superintendent of New Jersey State Prison Farm at Rahway,New Jersey.

No. 177.
Argued April 2, 1958.
Decided June 30, 1958.

Mr. Dickinson R. Debevoise, Newark, N.J., for petitioner.

Mr. C. William Caruso, Newark, N.J., for respondent.

Page 505

Mr. Justice HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

We are asked to reverse under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States a state conviction which was entered upon a plea of non vult to an indictment for first degree murder.

In the evening of March 17, 1947, Charles Kittuah, the owner of a small dry goods store in Newark, New Jersey, was shot and killed during the course of a robbery. The crime remained unsolved until December 17, 1949, when the Newark police obtained information implicating the petitioner and two others, Armando Corvino and John DeMasi. Petitioner lived with his parents at Orange, New Jersey. Apparently acting at the request of the Newark police, the Orange police sought to locate petitioner at his home. When told that her was out, the police left word that he was to report at the Orange police headquarters the following day. Petitioner sought the advice of Frank A. Palmieri, a lawyer, who advised him to report as requested. Petitioner did so, accompanied by his father and brother. Upon arrival at the Orange police station at 9 a.m. on December 18, petitioner was separated from the others and taken by detectives to the Newark police headquarters. At approximately 2 p.m. the same day petitioner's father, brother and Mr. Palmieri, the lawyer, arrived at the Newark station. Mr. Palmieri immediately asked to see petitioner, but this request was refused by the police. He repeated this request at intervals throughout the afternoon and well into the evening, but without success. During this period petitioner, who was being questioned intermittently by the police, asked to see his lawyer. These requests were also denied. Lawyer and client were not permitted to confer until 9:30 p.m., by which time petitioner had made and signed a written confession to the murder of Kittuah. The confession is not in the record.

Page 506

Petitioner was arraigned the next day, December 19, and subsequently indicted, along with Corvino and DeMasi, both of whom had also confessed to the murder. Thereafter, petitioner moved in the Essex County Court for an order requiring the State to produce for inspection before trial his confession and the confessions of his co-defendants and, alternatively, for an order suppressing his confession on the ground that it had been illegally obtained. The County Court denied the motion. The Superior Court of New Jersey dismissed the appeal, State v. Cicenia, 9 N.J.Super. 135, 75 A.2d 476, and the Supreme Court of New Jersey affirmed the dismissal, with modifications. 6 N.J. 296, 78 A.2d 568. The State Supreme Court held that New Jersey had no procedure like that under Rule 41(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, 18 U.S.C.A., by which inadmissible evidence could be suppressed before trial; that under New Jersey law criminal defendants did not have an absolute right to inspect their confessions in advance of trial; and that the trial judge in this instance did not abuse his discretion in disallowing such an inspection.

Following his failure to suppress or obtain inspection of his confession petitioner, on the advice of his attorney, offered to plead non vult to the indictment. In New Jersey such a plea is subject to discretionary acceptance by the trial court, State v. Martin, 92 N.J.L. 436, 106 A. 385, 17 A.L.R. 1090, and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Petitioner's plea was accepted by the trial court, as were the similar pleas of Corvino and DeMasi, whose cases are not before us. Petitioner and his two co-defendants were thereupon sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor.

Thereafter petitioner commenced habeas corpus proceedings in the New Jersey courts, alleging that his plea of non vult was actuated by the existence of the confession, and that the conviction entered upon such plea was

Page 507

vitiated under both the State and Federal Constitutions because the confession was coerced and because it had been taken in derogation of his right to the assistance of counsel. The County Court, the Superior Court, and the Supreme Court of New Jersey in turn denied relief,1 and this Court denied certiorari. Cicenia v. State of New Jersey, 350 U.S. 925, 76 S.Ct. 215, 100 L.Ed. 809. Petitioner then commenced in the District Court for New Jersey the federal habeas corpus proceeding before us, attacking his conviction on the grounds stated above. The District Court discharged the writ, holding that petitioner had failed to establish the involuntariness of the confession and that the State's refusal to permit petitioner to communicate with counsel during the police inquiry did not deprive him of due process. Application of Cicenia, D.C., 148 F.Supp. 98. The Court of Appeals affirmed, 3 Cir., 240 F.2d 844, and we granted certiorari to consider the constitutional questions presented. Cicenia v. Lagay, 354 U.S. 908, 77 S.Ct. 1297, 1 L.Ed.2d 1426.2

Page 508

An independent examination of the record satisfies us that the District Court was justified in concluding that petitioner failed to substantiate the charge that his confession was coerced. Petitioner does not now contend to the contrary. He continues to contend, however, that under the Fourteenth Amendment his confession, even though voluntary, was nevertheless vitiated by police refusal to permit him to confer with counsel during his detention at Newark police headquarters, and that because his plea of non vult was based on the confession, the conviction must fall as well.3

The contention that petitioner had a constitutional right to confer with counsel is disposed of by Crooker v. California, 357 U.S. 433, 78 S.Ct. 1287, decided today. There we held that California's failure to honor Crooker's request during a period of police interrogation to consult with a lawyer, as yet unretained, did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. Because the present case, in which petitioner was denied an opportunity to confer with the lawyer whom he had already retained, sharply points up the constitutional issue involved, some additional observations are in order.

We share the strong distaste expressed by the two lower courts over the episode disclosed by this record. Cf. Stroble v. California, 343 U.S. 181, 197—198, 72 S.Ct. 599, 607, 96 L.Ed. 872. Were this a federal prosecution we would have little difficulty in

Page 509

dealing with what occurred under our general supervisory power over the administration of justice in...

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252 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
    ...426, 78 S.Ct. 1354, 2 L.Ed.2d 1443 (1958); Crooker v. California, 357 U.S. 433, 78 S.Ct. 1287, 2 L.Ed.2d 1448 (1958); Cicenia v. Lagay, 357 U.S. 504, 78 S.Ct. 1297, 2 L.Ed.2d 1523 (1958); Boulden v. Holman, 394 U.S. 478, 89 S.Ct. 1138, 22 L.Ed.2d 433 (1969); Frazier v. Cupp, 394 U.S. 731, 8......
  • City of Mesquite v. Aladdin Castle, Inc, No. 80-1577
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 23, 1982
    ...1391, 59 L.Ed.2d 660 (1979) (reaching federal issues when interpretation of State Constitution depends on federal law); Cicenia v. Lagay, 357 U.S. 504, 507, n.2, 78 S.Ct. 1297, 1299, n.2, 2 L.Ed.2d 1523 (1958) (After looking at record and opinion below, Court concludes that State Supreme Co......
  • 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
    ...crimes yield to the needs of a suspect to have consultation made available to him during a period of questioning. Cicenia v. Lagay, 357 U.S. 504, 509, 78 S.Ct. 1297, 2 L.Ed.2d 1523 (1958). But when closed and secret interrogation of a suspect is prolonged beyond what may be deemed to be a r......
  • State v. Haynes, No. 34735
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • September 14, 1961
    ...different from those in Griffith v. Rhay, supra. See, in addition to Crooker v. State of California, supra, Cicenia v. LaGay, 1958, 357 U.S. 504, 78 S.Ct. 1297, 2 L.Ed.2d 1523, in which the United States Supreme Court upheld the procurement of a confession obtained from a defendant who turn......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
251 cases
  • Miller v. Fenton, No. 83-5530
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • September 28, 1984
    ...426, 78 S.Ct. 1354, 2 L.Ed.2d 1443 (1958); Crooker v. California, 357 U.S. 433, 78 S.Ct. 1287, 2 L.Ed.2d 1448 (1958); Cicenia v. Lagay, 357 U.S. 504, 78 S.Ct. 1297, 2 L.Ed.2d 1523 (1958); Boulden v. Holman, 394 U.S. 478, 89 S.Ct. 1138, 22 L.Ed.2d 433 (1969); Frazier v. Cupp, 394 U.S. 731, 8......
  • City of Mesquite v. Aladdin Castle, Inc, No. 80-1577
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 23, 1982
    ...1391, 59 L.Ed.2d 660 (1979) (reaching federal issues when interpretation of State Constitution depends on federal law); Cicenia v. Lagay, 357 U.S. 504, 507, n.2, 78 S.Ct. 1297, 1299, n.2, 2 L.Ed.2d 1523 (1958) (After looking at record and opinion below, Court concludes that State Supreme Co......
  • 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
    ...crimes yield to the needs of a suspect to have consultation made available to him during a period of questioning. Cicenia v. Lagay, 357 U.S. 504, 509, 78 S.Ct. 1297, 2 L.Ed.2d 1523 (1958). But when closed and secret interrogation of a suspect is prolonged beyond what may be deemed to be a r......
  • State v. Haynes, No. 34735
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • September 14, 1961
    ...different from those in Griffith v. Rhay, supra. See, in addition to Crooker v. State of California, supra, Cicenia v. LaGay, 1958, 357 U.S. 504, 78 S.Ct. 1297, 2 L.Ed.2d 1523, in which the United States Supreme Court upheld the procurement of a confession obtained from a defendant who turn......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Supreme Court Behavior and Civil Rights
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 13-2, June 1960
    • June 1, 1960
    ...Los Angeles, 357U.S. 545 (1958); Speiser v. Randall, 357 U.S. 513 (1958); Prince v. San Francisco, 357 U.S.513 (1958); Cicenia v. La Gay, 357 U.S. 504 (1958); Caritativo v. California, 357 U.S. 549 (1958); Rupp v. Dickson, 357 U.S. 549 (1958); Jones v. U.S., 357 U.S. 493 (1958); Miller v. U......

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