Hawk v. Olson

Decision Date13 November 1945
Docket NumberNo. 17,17
PartiesHAWK v. OLSON
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. Joseph A. Fanelli, of Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Mr. Robert A. Nelson, of Lincoln, Neb., for respondent.

Mr. Justice REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

This writ of certiorari brings before us the judgment of the Supreme Court of Nebraska which affirmed a judgment of a district court dismissing a petition for habeas corpus to inquire into petitioner's detention for want of merit and failure to state a cause of action. Hawk v. Olson, 145 Neb. 306, 16 N.W.2d 181.1 Petitioner was in the penitentiary after conviction for murder. The writ was granted because a substantial federal question as to restraint without due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment seemed to be presented by the petition for certiorari and the response. 324 U.S. 839, 65 S.Ct. 1021.

As no response was filed or evidence received in the district court, we accept as true all well pleaded allegations of the petition and, in the exercise of the duty which lies on us as well as the Nebraska courts to safeguard the federal constitutional rights to petitioner, examine for ourselves whether under the facts stated the petitioner is now entitled to a hearing on the claimed violations of the due process clause in his conviction for murder in the first degree. Lisenba v. California, 314 U.S. 219, 237, 62 S.Ct. 280, 290, 86 L.Ed. 166; White v. Ragen, 324 U.S. 760, 65 S.Ct. 978.

In its opinion the Supreme Court of Nebraska carefully considers a number of claims of denial of due process. It is said that some of the grounds for release are pleaded in the form of conclusions and that Nebraska procedure requires in habeas corpus proceedings that the applicant must set forth the facts from which it must appear that he will be entitled to discharge. Hawk v. Olson, Neb., 16 N.W.2d 181, loc. cit. 183. We assume, since such grounds appear in the petition, that one of these pretermitted grounds is that 'Conviction was obtained by the use of perjured testimony knowingly used by the Prosecuting Officials and the Trial Court.' See Ex parte Hawk, 321 U.S. 114, 116, 64 S.Ct. 448, 449, 88 L.Ed. 572. Whatever Nebraska may require in the way of further specification may be furnished, if available, and permissible under the law of Nebraska (see Hawk v. Olson, supra, 16 N.W.2d loc. cit. 183), by petitioner on a new hearing. Cf. Tomkins v. Missouri, 323 U.S. 485, 487, 65 S.Ct. 370, 371. On the issues of the sufficiency of the evidence and the interference with the right of appeal, we accept the decision of Nebraska that the first cannot be raised by habeas corpus (Hawk v. Olson, 16 N.W.2d 181, 183) and that the second is not supported by the facts stated by petitioner.2 Other ob- jections to the judgment have been made which are not discussed herein but which we have looked into and which we do not consider merit further attention.

Petitioner contends that his conviction violates the Fourteenth Amendment because of denial at his trial of an opportunity to examine the charge, subpoena witnesses, consult counsel and prepare a defense. Denial of effective assistance of counsel does violate due process. Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45, 58, 53 S.Ct. 55, 60, 77 L.Ed. 158, 84 A.L.R. 527; House v. Mayo, 324 U.S. 42, 46, 65 S.Ct. 517, 521; compare White v. Ragen, 324 U.S. 760, 764, 65 S.Ct. 978, 980.

Since Frank v. Mangum, 237 U.S. 309, 331, 35 S.Ct. 582, 588, 59 L.Ed. 969, this Court has recognized that habeas corpus in the federal courts by one convicted of a criminal offense is a proper procedure 'to safeguard the liberty of all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States against infringement through any violation of the Constitution,' even though the events which were alleged to infringe did not appear upon the face of the record of his conviction. This opportunity for an examination into the 'very truth and substance of the causes of his detention' was said in the Frank case to have come from the adoption in 1867 of a statute which empowered federal courts to examine into restraints of liberty in violation of the Constitution of the United States. 14 Stat. 385, Chap. XXVIII.3 The legislation en- larged for the federal courts the 'bare legal review' of the authority under which a petitioner was held which had been previously afforded by habeas corpus.4 Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458, 465—467, 58 S.Ct. 1019, 1023, 1024, 82 L.Ed. 1461, 146 A.L.R. 357. See also In re Neagle, 135 U.S. 1, 69—76, 10 S.Ct. 658, 670 672, 34 L.Ed. 55; McNally v. Hill, Warden, 293 U.S. 131, 55 S.Ct. 24, 79 L.Ed. 238.

This liberalization of habeas corpus required federal courts, when the issue was presented, to examine whether a conviction occurred under such influence by mob spirit as to deny due process. Frank v. Mangum, supra, 237 U.S. 331, 335, dissent 347, 35 S.Ct. 588, 590, dissent 595, 59 L.Ed. 969. The power was called into play a few years later to examine a state conviction under alleged community coercion and this Court said that if the facts set out were true, the trial would not support a conviction. Moore v. Dempsey, 261 U.S. 86, 43 S.Ct. 265, 67 L.Ed. 543. In Mooney v. Holohan, 294 U.S. 103, 112, 55 S.Ct. 340, 342, 79 L.Ed. 791, 98 A.L.R. 406, it was declared that the knowing use of material perjured testimony by a state prosecutor would make a trial unfair within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.

When the absence of counsel at a trial was urged as a ground for a federal writ of habeas corpus, we held that in federal courts a felony conviction without benefit of counsel is subject to collateral attack because a violation of the accused's constitutional right to the services of an attorney unless he has intelligently waived that privilege. Johnson v. Zerbst, supra, 304 U.S. 467, 468, 58 S.Ct. 1024, 1025, 82 L.Ed. 1461, 146 A.L.R. 357; Walker. v. Johnston, 312 U.S. 275, 286, 61 S.Ct. 574, 579, 85 L.Ed. 830. The same is true in instances of coercion. Waley v. Johnston, 316 U.S. 101, 104, 62 S.Ct. 964, 966, 86 L.Ed. 1302.

In state prosecutions a conviction on a plea of guilty, obtained by a trick, Smith v. O'Grady, 312 U.S. 329, 334, 61 S.Ct. 572, 574, 85 L.Ed. 859, or, after refusal of a proper request for counsel, because of the accused's incapacity adequately to defend himself, Williams v. Kaiser, 323 U.S. 471, 472, 65 S.Ct. 363, 364, will not support imprisonment. Such procedure violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. See Tomkins v. Missouri, 323 U.S. 485, 65 S.Ct. 370; Cochran v. Kansas, 316 U.S. 255, 62 S.Ct. 1068, 86 L.Ed. 1453. That Amendment is violated also when a defendant is forced by a state to trial in such a way as to deprive him of the effective assistance of counsel. Powell v. Alabama, supra, 287 U.S. 52, 58, 53 S.Ct. 58, 60, 77 L.Ed. 158, 84 A.L.R. 527; House v. Mayo, 324 U.S. 42, 65 S.Ct. 517. Compare Ex parte Hawk, 321 U.S. 114, 64 S.Ct. 448, 88 L.Ed. 572; Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 69, 70, 62 S.Ct. 457, 464, 465, 86 L.Ed. 680. When the state does not provide corrective judicial process, the federal courts will entertain habeas corpus to redress the violation of the federal constitutional right. White v. Ragen, 324 U.S. 760, 65 S.Ct. 978. When the corrective process is provided by the state but error, in relation to the federal question of constitutional violation, creeps into the record, we have the responsibility to review the state proceedings. Williams v. Kaiser, 323 U.S. 471, 472, 65 S.Ct. 363, 364; Tomkins v. Missouri, supra.

Petitioner, a layman, set out the following allegations in his petition. On March 16, 1936, at 4:15 p.m., the petitioner, who had previously had a preliminary hearing, was brought to Omaha from the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas. He was held incommunicado in the Omaha jail except for a visit of fifteen minutes that evening, 11 to 11:15 p.m., by the Public Defender and his assistant. These officials tried to intimidate the petitioner to plead guilty. This petitioner refused to do, '* * * at which time the two Public Officials left your Petitioner and at the time said they would have nothing to do with Petitioner's trial scheduled for trial the following morning.' The next day petitioner was arraigned and was read an information charging the murder to which he pleaded 'not guilty,'5 and 'forthwith moved the Trial Court orally for a continuance of twenty-four (24) hours for the purpose of consulting counsel, examine the charge, subpoena witnesses and prepare a defense, and forthwith the Trial Court overruled the motion for a continuance and ordered the trial to proceed at which time the Clerk of the Court began to impanel the trial jury and had called two or three jurymen, when Joseph M. Lovely, a Public Official (Public Defender) and John N. Baldwin, his assistant stepped forward and entered the case, without ever having consulted your Petitioner, and without ever having been assigned by the Trial Court to represent your Petitioner.

'Your Petitioner had no consultation whatsoever with either of the aforesaid Public Officials regarding his defense, they picked the jury and testimony was adduced and a continuance or recess taken until the following morning March 18 (wednesday), 1936.' Petitioner claimed the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment. The record is either silent on or not inconsistent with anything material in these allegations. Cf. Tomkins v. Missouri, 323 U.S. 485, 487, 65 S.Ct. 370, 371. There is no allegation or sug- gestion of ignorance of or unfamiliarity with procedural or substantive law or sub-normal mentality.

These facts, if true, we think, set out a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. They are not conclusions of law. They are not too vague. The charge upon which petitioner was convicted was murder in the first degree. He had no advice of counsel prior to the calling of the jury. His motion for continuance to examine the charge...

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