Grundler v. State of North Carolina

Decision Date11 November 1960
Docket NumberNo. 8143.,8143.
Citation283 F.2d 798
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
PartiesRobert J. GRUNDLER and Joseph L. Jelly, Appellants, v. STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, Appellee.

Herbert E. Rosenberg, New York City, and Arthur P. Hartel, Jr., for appellants.

Ralph Moody and G. Andrew Jones, Asst. Attys. Gen. of North Carolina (T. W. Bruton, Atty. Gen. of North Carolina, on brief), for appellee.

Before SOBELOFF, Chief Judge, SOPER, Circuit Judge, and LEWIS, District Judge.

SOBELOFF, Chief Judge.

Two prisoners in the North Carolina penitentiary prosecute this appeal from the District Court's denial, without a hearing, of their petition for habeas corpus against the State.

On March 8, 1958, Robert J. Grundler and Joseph L. Jelly, after a trial in which they were represented by counsel of their choice, were convicted of rape in a North Carolina state court and sentenced to life imprisonment. On the same day, upon the imposition of sentence, they noted appeals to the North Carolina Supreme Court and were allowed by the trial court to proceed in forma pauperis. The trial judge ordered a copy of the transcript to be supplied them free. However, later that day the appellants signed papers stating their desire to withdraw and abandon their appeals. A hearing was ordered, and after questioning the appellants to ascertain the voluntariness of this action, the judge permitted the appeals to be withdrawn. The State suggests that the defendants were motivated by the fear that if a new trial should be granted and they should again be convicted, the death penalty might ensue.

Upon reconsideration, however, the defendants about a month later sought to set aside the formal and deliberate abandonment of their appeals. The trial court refused to permit this, stating that it was without jurisdiction to reinstate the appeals. This ruling the Supreme Court of North Carolina later reversed, holding that the trial court could for good cause shown grant the defendants the desired relief. State v. Grundler, 1959, 249 N.C. 399, 106 S.E.2d 488. Thereafter, a further hearing was held and the trial court again refused to reinstate the appeals, this time specifically on the ground that no excusable neglect, mistake, inadvertence or surprise was shown. From this refusal the defendants again appealed. They also applied to the Supreme Court of North Carolina for a writ of certiorari to review the assignments of error in the original trial. The State Supreme Court upheld the lower court's refusal to reinstate the appeals. Nevertheless, it granted the writ of certiorari, completely reviewed the trial proceedings, found no reversible error, and affirmed the convictions. State v. Grundler, 1959, 251 N.C. 177, 111 S.E.2d 1. The Supreme Court of the United States later denied certiorari. Grundler et al. v. North Carolina, 1960, 362 U.S. 917, 80 S.Ct. 670, 4 L.Ed.2d 738.

Grundler and Jelly then petitioned the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina for a writ of habeas corpus. The District Judge, having before him the record of the proceedings in the state courts, including the transcript of the trial, which furnished all data relevant to the petitioners' claims, denied the petition without a hearing and wrote an opinion stating his reasons. While holding that Grundler and Jelly had exhausted their state remedies, District Judge Butler concluded that they had received "a full, fair and complete adjudication of all issues" in the state courts. Grundler v. State of North Carolina, D.C.E.D.N.C. 1960, 183 F.Supp. 475.

On this appeal the State opposes the claim of federal relief on the ground that state remedies have not been exhausted, inasmuch as the Supreme Court of North Carolina denied the appeals and the prisoners did not proceed under the State's post conviction statute. This argument is without merit. More pertinent is the fact that the Supreme Court of North Carolina did actually review the convictions on certiorari and squarely decided the questions raised. If a question is presented and adjudicated by the state's highest court once, it is not necessary to urge it upon them a second time under an alternate procedure. This was expressly held in Brown v. Allen, 1953, 344 U.S. 443, 447, 73 S.Ct. 397, 97 L.Ed. 469.

The appellants, on the other hand, seem to persist in their complaint that they were not properly afforded their right to appeal. This contention, likewise, lacks merit. Even though the appellants were held to have abandoned their appeals and failed to show a sufficient reason for reinstatement, the State Supreme Court did fully review the case on certiorari. Having been accorded such review, which is perhaps more than they were entitled to of right, they have no basis for complaint.

Although we cannot agree with the State's contention that there has been a failure to exhaust state remedies, we do agree that the District Court, in this instance, committed no error in dismissing the petition without a hearing.

The appellants argue that their trial in the state court was so unfair as to constitute a denial of due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In support of this, they point to alleged errors in the admission and exclusion of evidence, and dispute the sufficiency of the evidence and the trial judge's instructions to the jury.

At the trial, counsel for Grundler and Jelly sought to show that the rape victim had had sexual relations with other persons, but the trial judge excluded such evidence. In upholding this ruling, the Supreme Court of North Carolina recognized a split in authority over the admissibility of specific acts of sexual intercourse as tending to show consent, and held that under the law of that State such evidence is inadmissible. The other complaint dealing with rulings on evidence was that the trial judge nevertheless admitted testimony on behalf of the State that the prosecutrix was never seen in establishments selling beer. Later, however, the judge instructed the jury to disregard this evidence. The State Supreme Court, in considering this asserted error, acknowledged that "this evidence was incompetent. The State may only prove her general character — it may not offer proof of particular traits of character." State v. Grundler, 1959, 251 N.C. 177, 111 S.E.2d 1, 12. The appellate court then held that any prejudice from the admission of the challenged evidence was cured by the trial judge's later withdrawing it from the jury.

The appellants also maintain that...

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  • Roller v. McKellar
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
    • April 18, 1989
    ...which deprive a state court defendant of fundamental fairness are cognizable in federal habeas proceedings. Grundler v. North Carolina, 283 F.2d 798, 802 (4th Cir.1960); see also Chance v. Garrison, 537 F.2d 1212 (4th Cir.1976); Barnard v. Henderson, 514 F.2d 744 (5th Cir.1975). The trial j......
  • Frank A. v. Ames
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    • November 19, 2021
    ...protections,’ admissibility of evidence does not present a state or federal constitutional question.") (citing Grundler v. North Carolina , 283 F.2d 798, 802 (4th Cir. 1960) ). Additionally, there was no objection made either to the testimony or to the prosecutor's reference thereto in her ......
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    ...conviction is supported by the record, the federal court should not serve as a forum for an additional appeal. Grundler v. State of North Carolina, 283 F.2d 798, 802 (4 Cir. 1960); Telfian v. Sanford, 161 F.2d 556 (5 Cir. 1947), cert. denied, 332 U.S. 781, 68 S.Ct. 48, 92 L.Ed. 365 (1947). ......
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