Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Herman v. Claudy, No. 45

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBLACK
Citation76 S.Ct. 223,100 L.Ed. 126,350 U.S. 116
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, et rel. Stephen J. HERMAN, Petitioner, v. Dr. John W. CLAUDY, Warden
Decision Date09 January 1956
Docket NumberNo. 45

350 U.S. 116
76 S.Ct. 223
100 L.Ed. 126
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, et rel. Stephen J. HERMAN, Petitioner,

v.

Dr. John W. CLAUDY, Warden.

No. 45.
Argued Nov. 14, 1955.
Decided Jan. 9, 1956.

Page 117

Mr. Herbert Monte Levy, New York City, Mrs. Marjorie Hanson Matson, Pittsburgh, Pa., for petitioner.

Mr. Wray G. Zelt, Jr., Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1945 petitioner Stephen Herman pleaded guilty in a Pennsylvania state court to 8 charges of burglary, 12 of larceny, 8 of forgery, and 2 of false pretense. 1 He was sentenced to serve 17 1/2 to 35 years in the penitentiary, 2 1/2 to 5 years on each of the charges, some running consecutively, some concurrently. Eight years later, in 1953, he filed this petition for habeas corpus in the same Pennsylvania court, asking that his conviction be held invalid as in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. He alleged: (1) that his pleas of guilty were the result of coercion and threats by state officers and (2) that at no stage of the proceedings was he either advised of his right to or given the benefit of counsel. The District Attorney filed an answer challenging the materiality of some of petitioner's allegations

Page 118

denying others, and urging that the writ be refused because of petitioner's tardiness in challenging the judgment. He asked that the petition be summarily dismissed on the ground that 'it would be a waste of time and very expensive for Washington County to have this defendant go into a hearing to prove charges that he could have raised at the time he was sentenced by this Court.' The petition was summarily dismissed without a hearing by the same trial judge who had sentenced petitioner.

On appeal, the Superior Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania affirmed the dismissal. 176 Pa.Super. 387, 107 A.2d 595. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied leave to appeal without opinion. We granted certiorari, 349 U.S. 904, 75 S.Ct. 584, because summary dismissal in the face of the petitioner's serious allegations appeared to be out of line with decisions of this Court.

Our prior decisions have established that: (1) a conviction following trial or on a plea of guilty based on a confession extorted by violence or by mental coercion is invalid under the Federal Due Process Clause;2 (2) where a person convicted in a state court has not intelligently and understandingly waived the benefit of counsel and where the circumstances show that his rights could not have been fairly protected without counsel, the Due Process Clause invalidates his conviction;3 (3) where a denial of these constitutional protections is alleged in an

Page 119

appropriate proceeding by factual allegations not patently frivolous or false on a consideration of the whole record, the proceeding should not be summarily dismissed merely because a state prosecuting officer files an answer denying some or all of the allegations.4

In the light of our previous holdings we now consider the allegations of the petition for habeas corpus and the prosecuting officer's answer. The petition alleged:

Petitioner, who had been to school only 6 years, was 21 years old when arrested. His only prior experience with criminal procedure was 2 years earlier, when without the benefit of counsel he pleaded guilty to charges of burglary, larceny, and forgery, and was sentenced to 6 to 12 months in jail. After his arrest on the present charges he was held incommunicado for 3 days. During this period a state trooper grabbed him by the neck and threatened to choke him if he did not confess, and there were threats against the safety of his wife and daughter. Petitioner finally confessed after 72 hours of intermittent questioning and was taken to a justice of the peace. He waived indictment and agreed to plead guilty to 3 charges. More than a month later he was taken before the Court of Common Pleas and charged with some 30 offenses. The assistant prosecuting attorney demanded that petitioner sign a plea of guilty to all the charges. When petitioner asked what he was signing, the assistant prosecuting attorney said 'Sign your name and forget it.' Petitioner was not informed of the seriousness of the charges by the prosecutor or the judge; he did not know that his plea of guilty could result in a maximum sentence of some 315 years; he did not know nor was he informed that he could have counsel.

Page 120

Petitioner pleaded guilty to all of the charges against him. He now says he was innocent of all but one.

The District Attorney's answer alleged: It was immaterial that petitioner was only 21 years old and of limited educational background. Since petitioner had previous experience in criminal procedure from the former case in which he pleaded guilty, he understood his rights and was barred from alleging that his lack of criminal experience violated due process. It was not necessary that a defendant should have the advice, support, and assistance of relatives or friends even if it be assumed that there was anything in the record to show that such an opportunity was denied to petitioner. Petitioner had no constitutional right to be informed by the court or prosecuting attorney of his right to counsel or of the severity of the sentences which might be imposed upon him. There was no showing that petitioner had been injured by not having counsel. The District Attorney did not deny that petitioner had been told in the courtroom to 'Sign your name and forget it,' but denied only 'that the statements were made by the Assistant District Attorney in order to obtain pleas to the charges involved.' The District Attorney defended the State's right to confine petitioner for a period of 72 hours on the ground that this was not 'an unreasonable length of time to hold a defendant.' The charge that the officers threatened the safety of petitioner's wife and daughter was specifically denied as untrue, as was the charge that petitioner was grabbed by the neck. The answer alleged that petitioner's confession was wholly voluntary.

The foregoing narrative of the allegations in the petition and the answer reveals a sharp dispute as to the facts material to a determination of the constitutional questions involved. The allegations as to petitioner's treatment prior to confession and his understanding of the nature and...

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243 practice notes
  • People v. Spencer, Cr. 7855
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • March 14, 1967
    ...prompted by fear that an unlawfully obtained confession may be used at trial. (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ex rel Herman v. Claudy (1956) 350 U.S. 116, 122, 76 S.Ct. 223, 100 L.Ed. 126; Wright v. Dickson (9th Cir. 1964) 336 F.2d 878, 882 (plea invalid if 'induced by incriminating statement......
  • People v. Dorado, Cr. 7468
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 29, 1965
    ...L.Ed. 1686; Palmer v. Ashe (1951), 342 U.S. 134, 72 S.Ct. 191, 96 L.Ed. 154; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ex rel. Herman v. Claudy (1956) 350 U.S. 116, 76 S.Ct. 223, 100 L.Ed. Massiah leaves unchallenged the statement in Carnley v. Cochran, supra, 369 U.S. 506, 514, 82 S.Ct. 884, 889, that ......
  • Holly v. Smyth, No. 8058.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • June 3, 1960
    ...in criminal procedure, and was not advised of his right to counsel); Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ex rel. Herman v. Claudy, 1956, 350 U.S. 116, 76 S.Ct. 223, 100 L.Ed. 126 (a 21 year old defendant); Moore v. State of Michigan, 1957, 355 U.S. 155, 78 S.Ct. 191, 2 L.Ed. 2d 167 (17 year old de......
  • State v. Bass, No. 78
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • February 9, 1972
    ...does not justify forcing counsel upon an accused who wants none.' Moore v. Michigan (supra); Pennsylvania ex rel. Herman v. Claudy, 350 U.S. 116, 76 S.Ct. 223, 100 L.Ed. In State v. Morgan, 272 N.C. 97, 157 S.E.2d 606, this Court said: 'Having been fully advised by the court that an attorne......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
243 cases
  • People v. Spencer, Cr. 7855
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • March 14, 1967
    ...prompted by fear that an unlawfully obtained confession may be used at trial. (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ex rel Herman v. Claudy (1956) 350 U.S. 116, 122, 76 S.Ct. 223, 100 L.Ed. 126; Wright v. Dickson (9th Cir. 1964) 336 F.2d 878, 882 (plea invalid if 'induced by incriminating statement......
  • People v. Dorado, Cr. 7468
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 29, 1965
    ...L.Ed. 1686; Palmer v. Ashe (1951), 342 U.S. 134, 72 S.Ct. 191, 96 L.Ed. 154; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ex rel. Herman v. Claudy (1956) 350 U.S. 116, 76 S.Ct. 223, 100 L.Ed. Massiah leaves unchallenged the statement in Carnley v. Cochran, supra, 369 U.S. 506, 514, 82 S.Ct. 884, 889, that ......
  • Holly v. Smyth, No. 8058.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • June 3, 1960
    ...in criminal procedure, and was not advised of his right to counsel); Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ex rel. Herman v. Claudy, 1956, 350 U.S. 116, 76 S.Ct. 223, 100 L.Ed. 126 (a 21 year old defendant); Moore v. State of Michigan, 1957, 355 U.S. 155, 78 S.Ct. 191, 2 L.Ed. 2d 167 (17 year old de......
  • State v. Bass, No. 78
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • February 9, 1972
    ...does not justify forcing counsel upon an accused who wants none.' Moore v. Michigan (supra); Pennsylvania ex rel. Herman v. Claudy, 350 U.S. 116, 76 S.Ct. 223, 100 L.Ed. In State v. Morgan, 272 N.C. 97, 157 S.E.2d 606, this Court said: 'Having been fully advised by the court that an attorne......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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