Jackson v. Denno, No. 62

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWHITE
Citation12 L.Ed.2d 908,378 U.S. 368,84 S.Ct. 1774,1 A.L.R.3d 1205
Docket NumberNo. 62
Decision Date22 June 1964
PartiesNathan JACKSON, Petitioner, v. Wilfred DENNO, Warden

378 U.S. 368
84 S.Ct. 1774
12 L.Ed.2d 908
Nathan JACKSON, Petitioner,

v.

Wilfred DENNO, Warden.

No. 62.
Argued Dec. 9 and 10, 1963.
Decided June 22, 1964.

[Syllabus from pages 368-369 intentionally omitted]

Page 369

Daniel G. Collins, New York City, for petitioner.

William I. Siegel, Brooklyn, for respondent.

Mr. Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner, Jackson, has filed a petition for habeas corpus in the Federal District Court asserting that his conviction for murder in the New York courts is invalid because it was founded upon a confession not properly

Page 370

determined to be voluntary. The writ was denied, 206 F.Supp. 759 (D.C.S.D.N.Y.), the Court of Appeals affirmed, 309 F.2d 573 (C.A.2d Cir.), and we granted certiorari to consider fundamental questions about the constitutionality of the New York procedure governing the admissibility of a confession alleged to be involuntary.1 371 U.S. 967, 83 S.Ct. 553, 9 L.Ed.2d 538.

I.

On June 14, 1960, at about 1 a.m., petitioner, Jackson, and Nora Elliott entered a Brooklyn hotel where Miss Elliott registered for both of them. After telling Miss Elliott to leave, which she did, Jackson drew a gun and took money from the room clerk. He ordered the clerk and several other people into an upstairs room and left the hotel, only to encounter Miss Elliott and later a policeman on the street. A struggle with the latter followed, in the course of which both men drew guns. The

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policeman was fatally wounded and petitioner was shot twice in the body. He managed to hail a cab, however, which took him to the hospital.

A detective questioned Jackson at about 2 a.m., soon after his arrival at the hospital. Jackson, when asked for his name, said, 'Nathan Jackson, I shot the colored cop. I got the drop on him.' He also admitted the robbery at the hotel. According to the detective, Jackson was in 'strong' condition despite his wounds.

Jackson was given 50 milligrams of demerol and 1/50 of a grain of scopolamine at 3:55 a.m. Immediately thereafter an Assistant District Attorney, in the presence of police officers and hospital personnel, questioned Jackson, the interrogation being recorded by a stenographer. Jackson, who had been shot in the liver and lung, had by this time lost about 500 cc. of blood. Jackson again admitted the robbery in the hotel, and then said, 'Look, I can't go on.' But in response to further questions he admitted shooting the policeman and having fired the first shot.2 he interview was completed at 4 a.m. An

Page 372

operation upon petitioner was begun at 5 a.m. and completed at 8 a.m.

Jackson and Miss Elliott were indicted for murder in the first degree and were tried together. The statements made by Jackson, both at 2 and 3:55 a.m., were introduced in evidence without objection by Jackson's counsel. Jackson took the stand in his own defense. His account of the robbery and of the shooting of the policeman differed in some important respects from his confession. According to Jackson's testimony, there was a substantial interval of time between his leaving the hotel and the shooting, and the policeman attempted to draw his gun first and fired the first shot. As to the questioning at the hospital, Jackson recalled that he was in pain and gasping for breath at the time and was refused water and told he would not be let alone until the police had the answers they wanted. He knew that he had been interrogated but could remember neither the questions nor the answers.

To counter Jackson's suggestion that he had been pressured into answering questions, the State offered the testimony of the attending physician and of several other persons. They agreed that Jackson was refused water, but because of the impending operation rather than his refusal to answer questions. On cross-examination of the doctor, Jackson's counsel, with the help of the hospital

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records, elicited the fact that demerol and scopolamine were administered to Jackson immediately before his interrogation. But any effect of these drugs on Jackson during the interrogation was denied.3

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Although Jackson's counsel did not specifically object to the admission of the confession initially, the trial court indicated its awareness that Jackson's counsel was questioning the circumstances under which Jackson was interrogated. 4

In his closing argument, Jackson's counsel did not ask for an acquittal but for a verdict of second-degree murder or manslaughter. Counsel's main effort was to negative the premeditation and intent necessary to first-degree murder and to separate the robbery felony from the killing. He made much of the testimony tending to show a substantial interval between leaving the hotel and the beginning of the struggle with the policeman. The details of that struggle and the testimony indicating the policeman fired the first shot were also stressed.

Consistent with the New York practice where a question has been raised about the voluntariness of a confession, the trial court submitted that issue to the jury along with the other issues in the case. The jury was told that if it found the confession involuntary, it was to disregard it entirely, and determine guilt or innocence

Page 375

solely from the other evidence in the case; alternatively, if it found the confession voluntary, it was to determine its truth or reliability and afford it weight accordingly.5

The jury found Jackson guilty of murder in the first degree, Miss Elliott of manslaughter in the first degree. Jackson was sentenced to death, Miss Elliott to a prison

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term. Jackson's conviction was affirmed by the New York Court of Appeals, People v. Jackson, 10 N.Y.2d 780, 219 N.Y.S.2d 621, 177 N.E.2d 59, its remittitur being amended to show that it had necessarily passed upon the voluntariness of the confession and had found that Jackson's constitutional rights had not been violated. 10 N.Y.2d 816, 221 N.Y.S.2d 521, 178 N.E.2d 234. Certiorari was denied here. 368 U.S. 949, 82 S.Ct. 390, 7 L.Ed.2d 344. Jackson then filed a petition for habeas corpus claiming that the New York procedure for determining the voluntariness of a confession was unconstitutional and that in any event his confession was involuntary. After hearing argument and examining the state court record the District Court denied the petition without holding an evidentiary hearing. Indicating that it is the trier of fact who must determine the truth of the testimony of prisoner and official alike and resolve conflicts in the testimony, the court found 'no clear and conclusive proof that these statements were extorted from him, or that they were given involuntarily.' Nor was any constitutional infirmity found in the New York procedure. 206 F.Supp. 759 (D.C.S.D.N.Y.). The Court of Appeals, after noting the conflicting testimony concerning the coercion issue and apparently accepting the State's version of the facts, affirmed the conviction. 309 F.2d 573 (C.A.2d Cir.).

II.

It is now axiomatic that a defendant in a criminal case is deprived of due process of law if his conviction is founded, in whole or in part, upon an involuntary confession, without regard for the truth or falsity of the confession, Rogers v. Richmond, 365 U.S. 534, 81 S.Ct. 735, 5 L.Ed.2d 760, and even though there is ample evidence aside from the confession to support the conviction. Malinski v. New York, 324 U.S. 401, 65 S.Ct. 781, 89 L.Ed. 1029; Stroble v. California, 343 U.S. 181, 72 S.Ct. 599, 96 L.Ed. 872; Payne v. Arkansas, 356 U.S. 560, 78 S.Ct. 844, 2 L.Ed.2d 975. Equally clear is the defendant's constitutional right at some stage in the proceedings

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to object to the use of the confession and to have a fair hearing and a reliable determination on the issue of voluntariness, a determination uninfluenced by the truth or falsity of the confession. Rogers v. Richmond, supra. In our view, the New York procedure employed in this case did not afford a reliable determination of the voluntariness of the confession offered in evidence at the trial, did not adequately protect Jackson's right to be free of a conviction based upon a coerced confession and therefore cannot withstand constitutional attack under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. We therefore reverse the judgment below denying the writ of habeas corpus.

III.

Under the New York rule, the trial judge must make a preliminary determination regarding a confession offered by the prosecution and exclude it if in no circumstances could the confession be deemed voluntary.6 But if the evidence presents a fair question as to its voluntariness, as where certain facts bearing on the issue are in dispute or where reasonable men could differ over the inferences to be drawn from undisputed facts, the judge 'must receive the confession and leave to the jury, under proper instructions, the ultimate determination of its voluntary cha acter and also its truthfulness.'7 Stein v. New York, 346 U.S. 156, 172, 73 S.Ct. 1077, 1086, 97 L.Ed. 1522. If an issue of coercion is presented, the judge may not resolve conflicting evidence or arrive at his independent appraisal of the voluntariness

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of the confession, one way or the other. These matters he must leave to the jury.

This procedure has a significant impact upon the defendant's Fourteenth Amendment rights. In jurisdictions following the orthodox rule, under which the judge himself solely and finally determines the voluntariness of the confession, or those following the Massachusetts procedure,8 under which the jury passes on voluntariness only after the judge has fully and independently resolved the issue against the accused,9 the judge's con-

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clusions are clearly evident from the record since he either admits the confession into evidence if it is voluntary or rejects it if involuntary. Moreover, his findings upon disputed issues of fact are expressly stated...

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5158 practice notes
  • Miller v. Fenton, No. 83-5530
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • September 28, 1984
    ...as surely as by physical abuse. Blackburn v. Alabama, 361 U.S. 199, 206, 80 S.Ct. 274, 279, 4 L.Ed.2d 242 (1960); 11 see Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 389-90, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 1787-88, 12 L.Ed.2d 908 (1964); Spano v. New York, 360 U.S. 315, 321, 79 S.Ct. 1202, 1206, 3 L.Ed.2d 1265 (1959) (a......
  • Soffar v. Cockrell, No. 98-20385.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • July 29, 2002
    ...simply because of some random comment made by the suspect during his in-custody interrogation. It is inherent that the Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 12 L.Ed.2d 908 (1964), review for compliance with Miranda requirements occurs after the circumstances of the interrogation it......
  • Doody v. Ryan, No. 06–17161.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • May 4, 2011
    ...the state court. The dissent's argument notwithstanding, the jury's voluntariness determination is not dispositive. In Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 390, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 12 L.Ed.2d 908 (1964), the Supreme Court explained: Expanded concepts of fairness in obtaining confessions have been acc......
  • United States v. Deleon, No. CR 15-4268 JB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • June 30, 2017
    ...Reply at 6-7 (citing Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. at 130-31)(internal quotation marks omitted)(discussing Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368 (1964), where the Supreme Court held "it is difficult, if not impossible, to prove that a confession which a jury has found to be involuntary has nev......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5154 cases
  • Miller v. Fenton, No. 83-5530
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • September 28, 1984
    ...as surely as by physical abuse. Blackburn v. Alabama, 361 U.S. 199, 206, 80 S.Ct. 274, 279, 4 L.Ed.2d 242 (1960); 11 see Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 389-90, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 1787-88, 12 L.Ed.2d 908 (1964); Spano v. New York, 360 U.S. 315, 321, 79 S.Ct. 1202, 1206, 3 L.Ed.2d 1265 (1959) (a......
  • Soffar v. Cockrell, No. 98-20385.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • July 29, 2002
    ...simply because of some random comment made by the suspect during his in-custody interrogation. It is inherent that the Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 12 L.Ed.2d 908 (1964), review for compliance with Miranda requirements occurs after the circumstances of the interrogation it......
  • Doody v. Ryan, No. 06–17161.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • May 4, 2011
    ...the state court. The dissent's argument notwithstanding, the jury's voluntariness determination is not dispositive. In Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 390, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 12 L.Ed.2d 908 (1964), the Supreme Court explained: Expanded concepts of fairness in obtaining confessions have been acc......
  • United States v. Deleon, No. CR 15-4268 JB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • June 30, 2017
    ...Reply at 6-7 (citing Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. at 130-31)(internal quotation marks omitted)(discussing Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368 (1964), where the Supreme Court held "it is difficult, if not impossible, to prove that a confession which a jury has found to be involuntary has nev......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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