Curran v. State

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Delaware
Citation49 Del. 587,122 A.2d 126,10 Terry 587
Parties, 49 Del. 587 Francis J. CURRAN, Francis J. Maguire and Ira F. Jones, Jr., Appellants, v. The STATE of Delaware, Appellee.
Decision Date16 April 1956

Page 126

122 A.2d 126
10 Terry 587, 49 Del. 587
Francis J. CURRAN, Francis J. Maguire and Ira F. Jones, Jr.,
The STATE of Delaware, Appellee.
Supreme Court of Delaware.
April 16, 1956.

Page 127

Irving Morris of Cohen & Morris, Wilmington, for appellants.

Frank O'Donnell, Jr., Deputy Atty. Gen., for the State.


SOUTHERLAND, Chief Justice.

In February, 1948, the appellants, Curran, Maguire and Jones, were convicted of the crime of rape. A brief summary of the State's evidence at the trial is as follows:

At some time after midnight on October 30, 1947 Jean Igle, 23 years old, unmarried, was waiting for a bus near the corner of Fourth and Union Streets in the City of Wilmington. An automobile passed and stopped. The three men were in it. Curran got out, approached the girl, and asked her for a match. She had none, and he offered to escort her home. She went with him. They walked west on Fourth Street, turned north (away from the direction in which lay her home), and went to a public park which extends for two blocks, from Fourth to Sixth Streets, [49 Del. 589] along a railroad right of way. They entered the park. While there Curran attacked her. Maguire and Jones had followed them. All of them, she testified, ravished her. Two witnesses living in nearby houses heard screams. A woman in another nearby house called out to them: 'You had better leave that girl alone or I will call the cops.' At about a quarter of two a telephone call from an unknown woman was received at police headquarters. She said: 'Please send the police quick, there is a girl screaming down in the Park on Ferris Street, and I think she is being raped.' 1

After the woman had called out and threatened to call the police, Maguire and Curran left. Jones walked with the girl to Fourth Street, where police officers, in two police cars, found them. The girl, as soon as she was out of Jones' presence, made a complaint of rape.

Jones was taken to the police station and the girl was sent to a hospital and examined. The medical and other testimony relating to her condition left no doubt that she had been subjected to brutal violence, and that sexual intercourse had taken place.

Maguire and Curran were arrrested shortly thereafter.

At the police station all three men were questioned by police officers and eventually signed statements. None of these statements admitted any violence. All three statements asserted, or tended to show, that the girl had consented to intercourse.

The jury found all the defendants guilty, and recommended them to mercy. They

Page 128

were sentenced to life imprisonment, the minimum term then permitted by the statute. Each defendant was represented by experienced counsel. No appeal was taken.

In 1953 the prisoners filed a petition for habeas corpus, asserting that in several respects they had been denied at the [49 Del. 590] trial their constitutional rights. The judge dismissed the petition without prejudice, holding that habeas corpus was not the proper remedy, that remedy being a proceeding under Rule 35 of the Criminal Rules of Procedure. Curran v. Wooley, 9 Terry 214, 48 Del. 214, 101 A.2d 303. We affirmed 9 Terry 382, 104 A.2d 771.

The prisoners then filed a petition under Rule 35 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, relating to correction or reduction of sentence. Paragraph (a) of that rule provides a post-conviction remedy to a prisoner claiming, among other things, that his sentence was imposed in violation of the constitution and laws of this State or of the United States, or that the Court imposing such sentence was without jurisdiction to do so. Its obvious purpose is to provide at least as wide a post-conviction remedy as the remedies afforded by coram nobis and habeas corpus. It is similar to the provisions of 28 U.S.C.A. § 2255. It is undoubtedly designed to afford post-conviction relief of sufficiently broad scope to comply with the holdings of the Supreme Court of the United States relating to federal review under 28 U.S.C.A. § 2254 of State convictions for crime alleged to have been obtained in violation of federal constitutional rights. See, for example, Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443, 73 S.Ct. 397, 97 L.Ed. 469. But our rule also refers to convictions obtained in violation of our State constitution and laws. We think the purpose of Rule 35(a) is to afford a simple and efficient remedy to any prisoner who claims that his conviction was obtained by a disregard of the fundamental fairness essential to the very concept of justice. Cf. Wilson v. State, Del., 109 A.2d 381.

This does not mean that Rule 35(a) is a substitute for a writ of error, as suggested in the comments of the draftsmen of the rule. We agree with Judge Layton's observation in Curran v. Wooley, supra, to the effect that the remedy under Rule 35(a) cannot serve as a substitute for a writ of error. Error of law at the trial is ordinarily reviewable only by appeal.

[49 Del. 591] The prisoners assert that they were denied the substance of a fair trial because their conviction was obtained upon perjured testimony given by one of the police officers who testified against them. They say that he falsely testified that he had taken from Jones and Maguire one written statement; whereas, it now appears that he had taken two statements, and destroyed the first; notwithstanding which he identified the second statements as the first and only statements signed by them.

The facts are these:

After their arrest, all three defendants were questioned by officers of the Wilmington police during the early morning hours. Curran was questioned by Officer Nagle in the presence of two other officers. Jones and Maguire were questioned by Officer Rodenheiser in the presence of Officer Mazewski.

After some preliminary questioning, all three men made and signed statements with respect to their actions. The purport of all three was that the girl had consented to intercourse, first with Curran and then with the others, although Maguire said that he did 'not remember' trying to have sexual intercourse with any woman in the park. Curran and Jones said they tried to have intercourse but could not make penetration. None of these statements was a confession of the crime. Counsel made that point at the trial and the court agreed. Each statement, however, said in varying forms, that the girl was 'moaning' while one or more of the men was attempting intercourse.

The question before us concerns primarily...

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15 cases
  • Reynolds v. Ellingsworth, 86-5633
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 24 d2 Maio d2 1988
    ...motions prior to Conyers. See Herhal, 307 A.2d at 555 (reaching merits of Rule 35 claim despite possible procedural bar); Curran v. State, 10 Terry 587, 49 Del. 587, 122 A.2d 126, 128 (Del.), cert. denied, 352 U.S. 913, 77 S.Ct. 151, 1 L.Ed.2d 120 (1956) (same). The history of Rule 35 itsel......
  • State v. Wright, ID No. 91004136DI
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Delaware
    • 3 d2 Janeiro d2 2012 3A Wright Federal Practice and Procedure: Criminal 2d 582 [hereinafter cited as Wright],Page 189 24. Curran v. State, Del. Supr., 122 A.2d 126 (1956). 25. Brown v. Allen, supra n 3, was decided on February 9, 1953. Rule 35 (a) was adopted on November 6, 1952 and became effective upon ena......
  • Curran v. State of Delaware, 12397.
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 29 d1 Setembro d1 1958
    ...the procedure demanded by the Constitution." The judgment of the court below will be affirmed. --------Notes: 1 Curran v. State, 1956, 10 Terry 587, 588-589, 49 Del. 587, 588-589, 122 A.2d 126, 2 The jury not being present. 3 Rodenheiser enlarged upon this by testifying in rebuttal that the......
  • State v. Conyers
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    • Superior Court of Delaware
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    ...collaterally attacking a conviction the opportunity of doing so in state court. State v. Curran, Del.Super., 116 A.2d 782 (1955); aff'd 122 A.2d 126 (1956), cert. denied 352 U.S. 913, 77 S.Ct. 151, 1 L.Ed.2d 120 (1956). We may therefore look to federal decisions as to when failure to comply......
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