Harrington v. California, No. 750

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtDOUGLAS
Citation89 S.Ct. 1726,23 L.Ed.2d 284,395 U.S. 250
PartiesGlen Martin HARRINGTON, Petitioner, v. State of CALIFORNIA
Decision Date02 June 1969
Docket NumberNo. 750

395 U.S. 250
89 S.Ct. 1726
23 L.Ed.2d 284
Glen Martin HARRINGTON, Petitioner,

v.

State of CALIFORNIA.

No. 750.
Argued April 23, 1969.
Decided June 2, 1969.

Roger S. Hanson, Los Angeles, Cal., for petitioner.

James H. Kline, San Marino, Cal., for respondent.

Page 251

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

We held in Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 87 S.Ct. 824, 17 L.Ed.2d 705 that 'before a federal constitutional error can be held harmless, the court must be able to declare a belief that it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.' Id., at 24, 87 S.Ct., at 828. We said that, although 'there are some constitutional rights so basic to a fair trial that their infraction can never be treated as harmless error' (id., at 23, 87 S.Ct., at 827), not all

Page 252

'TRIAL ERRORS WHICH VIOLATE THE CONSTITUTion automatically call for reversaL.' Ibid.

The question whether the alleged error in the present case was 'harmless' under the rule of Chapman arose in a state trial for attempted robbery and first-degree murder. Four men were tried together—Harrington, a Caucasian, and Bosby, Rhone, and Cooper, Negroes—over an objection by Harrington that his trial should be severed. Each of his three codefendants confessed and their confessions were introduced at the trial with limiting instructions that the jury was to consider each confession only against the confessor. Rhone took the stand and Harrington's counsel cross-examined him. The other two did not take the stand.1

In Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123, 88 S.Ct. 1620, 20 L.Ed.2d 476, a confession of a codefendant who did not take the stand was used against Bruton in a federal prosecution. We held that Bruton had been denied his rights under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment. Since the Confrontation Clause is applicable as well in state trials by reason of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (Pointer v. Texas, 380 U.S. 400, 85 S.Ct. 1065, 13 L.Ed.2d 923), the rule of Bruton applies here.

The California Court of Appeal affirmed the convictions, 256 Cal.App.2d 209, 64 Cal.Rptr. 159, and the Supreme Court denied a petition for a hearing. We granted the petition for certiorari to consider whether the violation of Bruton was on these special facts harmless error under Chapman.

Petitioner made statements which fell short of a confession but which placed him at the scene of the crime. He admitted that Bosby was the trigger man;

Page 253

that he fled with the other three; and that after the murder he dyed his hair black and shaved off his moustache. Several eyewitnesses placed petitioner at the scene of the crime. But two of them had previously told the police that four Negroes committed the crime. Rhone's confession, however, placed Harrington inside the store with a gun at the time of the attempted robbery and murder.

Cooper's confession did not refer o Harrington by name. He referred to the fourth man as 'the white boy' or 'this white guy.' And he described him by age, height, and weight.

Bosby's confession likewise did not mention Harrington by name but referred to him as a blond-headed fellow or 'the white guy' or 'the Patty.'

Both Cooper and Bosby said in their confessions that they did not see 'the white guy' with a gun, which is at variance with the testimony of the prosecution witnesses.

Petitioner argues that it is irrelevant that he was not named in Cooper's and Bosby's confessions, that reference to 'the white guy' made it as clear as pointing and shouting that the person referred to was the white man in the dock with the three Negroes. We make the same assumption. But we conclude that on these special facts the lack of opportunity to cross-examine Cooper and Bosby constituted harmless error under the rule of Chapman.

Rhone, whom Harrington's counsel cross-examined, placed him in the store with a gun at the time of the murder. Harrington himself agreed he was there. Others testified he had a gun and was an active participant. Cooper and Bosby did not put a gun in his hands when he denied it.2 They did place him at the scene of

Page 254

the crime. But others, including Harrington himself, did the same. Their evidence, supplied through their confessions, was of course cumulative. But apart from them the case against Harrington was so overwhelming that we conclude that this violation of Bruton was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, unless we adopt the minority view in Chapman (386 U.S. at 42—45, 87 S.Ct., at 836—838) that a departure from constitutional procedures should result in an automatic reversal, regardless of the weight of the evidence.

It is argued that we must reverse if we can imagine a single juror whose mind might have been made up because of Cooper's and Bosby's confessions...

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2308 practice notes
  • Connecticut v. Johnson, No. 81-927
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 23, 1983
    ...U.S., at 24, 87 S.Ct., at 828. See also Milton v. Wainwright, 407 U.S. 371, 92 S.Ct. 2174, 33 L.Ed.2d 1 (1972); Harrington v. California, 395 U.S. 250, 89 S.Ct. 1726, 23 L.Ed.2d 284 (1969). Chapman continued a trend away from the practice of appellate courts in this country and in England o......
  • Bromwell v. Williams, Civ. No. K-76-926.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • December 30, 1977
    ...a reasonable doubt that the jury would have reached a different conclusion in the absence of such error. See Harrington v. California, 395 U.S. 250, 89 S.Ct. 1726, 23 L.Ed.2d 284 (1969); Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 87 S.Ct. 824, 17 L.Ed.2d 705 (1967).445 F. Supp. 121 APPENDIX IN THE......
  • U.S. v. Sarracino, No. 01-2308.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 19, 2003
    ...seems Page 1162 to us to have been the probable impact of the two confessions on the minds of an average jury." Harrington v. California, 395 U.S. 250, 254, 89 S.Ct. 1726, 23 L.Ed.2d 284 (1969). See also Chase v. Crisp, 523 F.2d 595, 598 (10th It is true, as noted, that the prosecution made......
  • Lufkins v. Leapley, No. 91-1697
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • June 24, 1992
    ...when that confession implicated the defendant. It has been repeatedly held that Bruton errors may be harmless. Harrington v. California, 395 U.S. 250, 253, 89 S.Ct. 1726, 1728, 23 L.Ed.2d 284 (1969); Schneble v. Florida, 405 U.S. 427, 428, 92 S.Ct. 1056, 1057, 31 L.Ed.2d 340 (1972); Brown v......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2308 cases
  • Connecticut v. Johnson, No. 81-927
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 23, 1983
    ...U.S., at 24, 87 S.Ct., at 828. See also Milton v. Wainwright, 407 U.S. 371, 92 S.Ct. 2174, 33 L.Ed.2d 1 (1972); Harrington v. California, 395 U.S. 250, 89 S.Ct. 1726, 23 L.Ed.2d 284 (1969). Chapman continued a trend away from the practice of appellate courts in this country and in England o......
  • Bromwell v. Williams, Civ. No. K-76-926.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • December 30, 1977
    ...a reasonable doubt that the jury would have reached a different conclusion in the absence of such error. See Harrington v. California, 395 U.S. 250, 89 S.Ct. 1726, 23 L.Ed.2d 284 (1969); Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 87 S.Ct. 824, 17 L.Ed.2d 705 (1967).445 F. Supp. 121 APPENDIX IN THE......
  • U.S. v. Sarracino, No. 01-2308.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 19, 2003
    ...seems Page 1162 to us to have been the probable impact of the two confessions on the minds of an average jury." Harrington v. California, 395 U.S. 250, 254, 89 S.Ct. 1726, 23 L.Ed.2d 284 (1969). See also Chase v. Crisp, 523 F.2d 595, 598 (10th It is true, as noted, that the prosecution made......
  • Lufkins v. Leapley, No. 91-1697
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • June 24, 1992
    ...when that confession implicated the defendant. It has been repeatedly held that Bruton errors may be harmless. Harrington v. California, 395 U.S. 250, 253, 89 S.Ct. 1726, 1728, 23 L.Ed.2d 284 (1969); Schneble v. Florida, 405 U.S. 427, 428, 92 S.Ct. 1056, 1057, 31 L.Ed.2d 340 (1972); Brown v......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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