Hudson v. State of North Carolina, No. 466

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSTEWART
Citation80 S.Ct. 1314,363 U.S. 697,4 L.Ed.2d 1500
PartiesLarry Dayton HUDSON, Petitioner, v. STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
Docket NumberNo. 466
Decision Date20 June 1960

363 U.S. 697
80 S.Ct. 1314
4 L.Ed.2d 1500
Larry Dayton HUDSON, Petitioner,

v.

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA.

No. 466.
Argued May 16, 1960.
Decided June 20, 1960.

Mr. William Joslin, Raleigh, N.C., for petitioner.

Mr. Ralph Moody, Raleigh, N.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The petitioner and two others were brought to trial before a jury in the Superior Court of Cumberland County, North Carolina, upon an indictment jointly charging them with robbery. When their case was called

Page 698

one of the defendants, David Cain, was represented by a lawyer of his own selection. The petitioner and the other defendant did not have counsel. Before pleading to the indictment, the petitioner, who was eighteen years old, asked the presiding judge to appoint a lawyer to help him with his defense, stating that he was without funds to employ counsel and was incapable of defending himself.1 The prosecutor conceded that the petitioner was unable to employ an attorney. 2 The trial judge denied the motion, telling the petitioner that 'The Court will try to see that your rights are protected throughout the case.'

All three of the defendants thereupon pleaded not guilty, and the case proceeded immediately to trial. The first witness for the State was the alleged victim of the robbery. Midway through this witness's testimony Cain's lawyer offered to represent all three codefendants 'as long as their interests don't conflict.' At the conclusion of the witness's direct testimony the trial judge advised the lawyer that he should cross-examine only on behalf of Cain, because 'I think you probably have a conflicting interest there.' Thereafter the witness was cross-examined intensely by Cain's lawyer, who brought out the witness's criminal record and previous commitment to a state mental institution. The petitioner and the other codefendant also briefly cross-examined the witness. The only other witnesses for the prosecution were two deputy sheriffs, who testified as to statements made to them by the defendants. They were cross-examined by the lawyer, but not by the two defendants without counsel.

At the conclusion of the State's evidence, Cain's lawyer moved that the case be dismissed. When this motion was

Page 699

denied he stated that Cain had no evidence to offer. Thereupon, in the presence of the jury, he tendered on behalf of Cain a plea of guilty to petit larceny. This plea was agreed to by the prosecutor and accepted by the court. The lawyer then withdrew from the proceedings.

The trial proceeded. The petitioner and his remaining codefendant each took the stand. Each made a statement denying the robbery. The petitioner was cross-examined at some length, with emphasis upon his previous criminal record. Neither the petitioner nor his codefendant produced any other witnesses or offered any further evidence. They were given an opportunity to argue their case to the jury, but did not do so.

The jury found both defendants guilty of larceny from the person, a felony under North Carolina law, and the following day the trial judge pronounced sentence. The petitioner was committed to the penitentiary for a term of three to five years. The codefendant convicted with him was sentenced to a jail term of eighteen months to two years. Cain was given a six months' suspended sentence.

The petitioner's subsequent appeal to the Supreme Court of North Carolina was dismissed for want of prosecution. Thereafter he filed in the trial court a 'petition for writ of certiorari,' which urged that the failure of the trial court to provide him with counsel had deprived him of his constitutional rights. This petition was treated as an application for relief under the North Carolina Post-Conviction Hearing Act.3 In the subsequent proceedings the court appointed a lawyer to represent the petitioner,4 and held a hearing at which the petitioner

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and his counsel were present. After considering the evidence presented, including a transcript of the trial proceedings,5 the court concluded that no special circumstances were shown which required the appointment of trial counsel, that the petitioner had been convicted only after a fair and impartial trial, and that there had consequently been no denial of due process of law. The petition was accordingly dismissed.6 The Supreme Court of North Carolina declined to review the order of dismissal. We granted certiorari to consider the substantial constitutional claim asserted. 361 U.S. 812, 80 S.Ct. 91, 4 L.Ed.2d 60.

The judge who presided at the post-conviction proceedings made detailed findings of fact. He found that the trial judge had 'advised the petitioner of his right to challenge when the jury was selected and advised the petitioner of his right to cross examine witnesses and to

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argue the case to the jury.' He also found that 'during the trial the Court properly excluded evidence which was inadmissible, and the petitioner cross examined the witnesses against him and at his request testified in his own behalf.'

In this Court counsel for the petitioner does not take issue with these findings. Counsel's primary emphasis rather is upon the petitioner's comparative youth, relying upon Wade v. Mayo, 334 U.S. 672, 68 S.Ct. 1270, 92 L.Ed. 1647. In that case it was held that the denial of a lawyer's help had resulted in the deprivation of due process where the Federal District Court after a habeas corpus hearing had found that the eighteen-year-old defendant was 'an inexperienced youth unfamiliar with Court procedure, and not capable of adequately representing himself.' 334 U.S., at page 683, 68 S.Ct. at page 1276. Here, by contrast, the post-conviction court found that 'although the petitioner was only eighteen years of age and had been only to the sixth grade in school at the time of his trial, he is intelligent, well informed, and was familiar with and experienced in Court procedure and criminal trials * * *.' Evaluations of this nature are peculiarly within the province of the trier of the facts based upon personal observation. As the Court pointed out in Wade v. Mayo, '(t)here are some individuals who, by reason of age, ignorance or mental capacity, are incapable of representing themselves adequately in a prosecution of a relatively simple nature. This incapacity is purely personal and can be determined only by an examination and observation of the individual.' 334 U.S., at page 684, 68 S.Ct. at page 1276.

In view of the findings of the post-conviction court, supported by the record of the trial proceedings, this, in short, is not a case where it can be said that the failure to appoint counsel for the defendant resulted in a constitutionally unfair trial either because of deliberate overreaching by court or prosecutor or simply because of

Page 702

the defendant's chronological are. Moreover, the record shows that up to the time that Cain's lawyer withdrew from the proceedings the petitioner was receiving the effective benefit of the lawyer's activity, and had the trial of all three defendants proceeded to a jury verdict, it is possible that the lawyer could have continued to represent the interests of the petitioner as well as those of the client who had retained him.

But that did not happen. Instead, on the advice of his counsel Cain entered a plea of guilt in the presence of the jury midway through the trial. The potential prejudice of such an occurrence is obvious and has long been recognized by the courts of North Carolina. State v. Hunter, 94 N.C. 829, 835; State v. Bryant, 236 N.C. 745, 747, 73 S.E.2d 791, 792; State v. Kerley, 246 N.C. 157, 97 S.E.2d 876. Yet it was precisely at this moment of great potential prejudice that the petitioner and his codefendant were left entirely to their own devices, for it was then that Cain's lawyer withdrew from the case. At that very point the petitioner and his codefendant were left to go it alone.

The precise course to be followed by a North Carolina trial court in order to cure the prejudice that may result from a codefendant's guilty plea does not appear to have been made entirely clear by the North Carolina decisions. In the Hunter case the Supreme Court of North Carolina pointed out that while...

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34 practice notes
  • Shiflett v. Commonwealth of Virginia, No. 12355
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • 24 Junio 1971
    ...last such case is Quicksall v. Michigan, 339 U.S. 660, 70 S.Ct. 910, 94 L.Ed. 1188. In cases after 1950, such as Hudson v. North Carolina, 363 U.S. 697, 80 S.Ct. 1314, 4 L.Ed.2d 1500, the Court regularly found special circumstances requiring the appointment of counsel in even the most routi......
  • Hendrix v. City of Seattle, No. 1
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • 5 Junio 1969
    ...U.S. 773, 69 S.Ct. 1247, 93 L.Ed. 1686 (1949). 10. Plea of guilty by codefendant within the hearing of the jury: Hudson v. North Carolina, 363 U.S. 697, 80 S.Ct. 1314, 4 L.Ed.2d 1500 7 18 U.S.C. § 1: 'Notwithstanding any Act of Congress to the contrary: '(1) Any offense punishable by death ......
  • Cebrero v. Frauenheim, No. 1:16-cv-00173-DAD-JLT (HC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • 12 Febrero 2018
    ...However, noting the above evidence was not admissible as substantive evidence of defendant's guilt (Hudson v. North Carolina (1960) 363 U.S. 697, 702), defendant argues his counsel should have requested a limiting instruction regarding the use of the evidence. His failure to request such an......
  • U.S. v. Beasley, No. 74-1338
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 5 Septiembre 1975
    ...disappeared from the trial. "The potential prejudice of such an occurrence is obvious . . ." Hudson v. North Carolina, 362 U.S. 697, 702, 80 S.Ct. 1314, 1317, 4 L.Ed.2d 1500 (1960). See United States v. Kimbrew, 380 F.2d 538, 540 (6th Cir. 1967); United States v. Dardi, 330 F.2d 316, 332-33......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
34 cases
  • Shiflett v. Commonwealth of Virginia, No. 12355
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • 24 Junio 1971
    ...last such case is Quicksall v. Michigan, 339 U.S. 660, 70 S.Ct. 910, 94 L.Ed. 1188. In cases after 1950, such as Hudson v. North Carolina, 363 U.S. 697, 80 S.Ct. 1314, 4 L.Ed.2d 1500, the Court regularly found special circumstances requiring the appointment of counsel in even the most routi......
  • Hendrix v. City of Seattle, No. 1
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • 5 Junio 1969
    ...U.S. 773, 69 S.Ct. 1247, 93 L.Ed. 1686 (1949). 10. Plea of guilty by codefendant within the hearing of the jury: Hudson v. North Carolina, 363 U.S. 697, 80 S.Ct. 1314, 4 L.Ed.2d 1500 7 18 U.S.C. § 1: 'Notwithstanding any Act of Congress to the contrary: '(1) Any offense punishable by death ......
  • Cebrero v. Frauenheim, No. 1:16-cv-00173-DAD-JLT (HC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • 12 Febrero 2018
    ...However, noting the above evidence was not admissible as substantive evidence of defendant's guilt (Hudson v. North Carolina (1960) 363 U.S. 697, 702), defendant argues his counsel should have requested a limiting instruction regarding the use of the evidence. His failure to request such an......
  • U.S. v. Beasley, No. 74-1338
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 5 Septiembre 1975
    ...disappeared from the trial. "The potential prejudice of such an occurrence is obvious . . ." Hudson v. North Carolina, 362 U.S. 697, 702, 80 S.Ct. 1314, 1317, 4 L.Ed.2d 1500 (1960). See United States v. Kimbrew, 380 F.2d 538, 540 (6th Cir. 1967); United States v. Dardi, 330 F.2d 316, 332-33......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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