Machibroda v. United States, No. 69

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSTEWART
Citation7 L.Ed.2d 473,82 S.Ct. 510,368 U.S. 487
PartiesJohn MACHIBRODA, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES
Decision Date19 February 1962
Docket NumberNo. 69

368 U.S. 487
82 S.Ct. 510
7 L.Ed.2d 473
John MACHIBRODA, Petitioner,

v.

UNITED STATES.

No. 69.
Argued Dec. 5, 1961.
Decided Feb. 19, 1962.

Curtis R. Reitz, Philadelphia, Pa., for the petitioner.

Page 488

Mrs. Julia P. Cooper, Washington, D.C., for the respondent.

Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1956 two informations were filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio charging the petitioner with having robbed banks in Waterville, Ohio, and Forest, Ohio. Represented by counsel of his own choice, the petitioner waived indictment and pleaded guilty to both charges. Sentence was deferred pending a presentence investigation, and in the interim petitioner appeared as a defense witness at the jury trial of Marvin Breaton, charged with participation in the Waterville bank robbery. At that trial the petitioner testified that he had robbed the Waterville bank, but denied that Breaton had been with him. Breaton was convicted by the jury. Three weeks later the petitioner appeared with counsel before the District Judge for sentencing. During the course of the proceedings the judge inquired if counsel had any statement to make, but did not direct any similar inquiry to the petitioner personally. The court imposed sentence of twenty-five years imprisonment on the first information and fifteen years on the second, the sentences to run consecutively.

In 1959 the petitioner instituted the present litigation by filing in the sentencing court a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, 28 U.S.C.A. § 2255, to vacate and set aside the sentence he was serving. The motion alleged three grounds upon which it was claimed relief should be granted: that the petitioner's pleas of guilty had not been voluntary, but had been induced by promises made by the Assistant United States Attorney in charge of the prosecution; that in violation of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, 18 U.S.C.A. the

Page 489

court had accepted the guilty pleas without first determining that they had been made voluntarily; and that in violation of Rule 32(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure the court had not inquired if the defendant wished to speak in his own behalf before sentence was imposed. The motion was denied by the District Court without a hearing, 184 F.Supp. 881. The Court of Appeals affirmed, per curiam, 6 Cir., 280 F.2d 379. We granted certiorari to consider seemingly significant questions as to the scope of relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, 28 U.S.C.A. § 2255, 365 U.S. 842, 81 S.Ct. 806, 5 L.Ed.2d 808.

I.

For the reasons stated in Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 82 S.Ct. 468, 7 L.Ed.2d 417, we hold that the failure of the District Court specifically to inquire at the time of sentencing whether the petitioner personally wished to make a statement in his own behalf is not of itself an error that can be raised by motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, 28 U.S.C.A. § 2255 or Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

II.

In support of his claim that his pleas of guilty had been involuntarily made, the petitioner's motion and supporting affidavit set out detailed factual allegations. Specifically, the motion and affidavit alleged that on three separate occasions, identified as to time and place, an Assistant United States Attorney had promised the petitioner that he would receive a total prison sentence of not more than twenty years if he pleaded guilty to both informations. These promises were said to have been made upon the authority of the United States Attorney and to be agreeable to the District Judge. It was alleged that the petitioner had been cautioned not to tell his own lawyer about the conversations. It was further alleged that when the petitioner threatened to advise his lawyer and the court of what had transpired, the Assistant

Page 490

United States Attorney had told him that if he 'insisted in making a scene,' certain unsettled matters concerning two other robberies would be added to the petitioner's difficulties. Finally, the motion and affidavit alleged that the petitioner had written two letters to the sentencing court and two letters to the Attorney General of the United States 'relative to the misrepresentations' by the Assistant United States Attorney, to which he had received no reply. 1

Page 491

The Government filed a memorandum in opposition to the petitioner's motion, attaching an affidavit of the Assistant United States Attorney. The affidavit emphatically denied any promises or coercion with respect to the petitioner's pleas of guilty, but did admit that the Assistant United States Attorney had had a conversation with the petitioner in the county jail the day before Breaton's trial, at which time the petitioner was told

Page 492

he was about to be given his last opportunity to tell the truth and that the court, in sentencing, might well take into consideration the petitioner's refusal to talk.

Without a hearing the District Judge determined that the petitioner's allegations as to an agreement with the Assistant United States Attorney were false. The court noted that it had never received either of the two letters

Page 493

referred to by the petitioner, but had received a letter purportedly from him six months after sentencing, which did not mention any agreement, but simply requested that the sentences be made concurrent, rather than consecutive. The court further noted that the petitioner had not complained when no request for a reduction of sentence was made by the United States Attorney within sixty days after sentencing, and that instead, the petitioner had waited almost two and a half years to file the present motion.

There can be no doubt that, if the allegations contained in the petitioner's motion and affidavit are true, he is entitled to have his sentence vacated. A guilty plea, if induced by promises or threats which deprive it of the character of a voluntary act, is void. A conviction based upon such a plea is open to collateral attack. See Walker v. Johnston, 312 U.S. 275, 61 S.Ct. 574, 85 L.Ed. 830; Waley v. Johnston, 316 U.S. 101, 62 S.Ct. 964, 86 L.Ed. 1302; Shelton v. United States, 356 U.S. 26, 78 S.Ct. 563, 2 L.Ed.2d 579, reversing, 5 Cir., 246 F.2d 571.2 'A plea of guilty differs in purpose and effect from a mere admission or an extrajudicial confession; it is itself a conviction. Like a verdict of a jury it is conclusive. More is not required; the court has nothing to do but give judgment and sentence. Out of just consideration for persons accused of crime, courts are careful that a plea of guilty shall not be accepted unless made voluntarily after proper advice and with full understanding of the consequences.' Kercheval v. United States, 274 U.S. 220, 223, 47 S.Ct. 582, 583, 71 L.Ed. 1009.

The District Court recognized that the 'charges of an agreement between a former Assistant United States Attorney and the defendant are serious,' and stated that

Page 494

if 'this Court had any doubt as to their falsity it would require a hearing.' The court determined, however, that the combination of factual inferences already mentioned 'conclusively indicates the falsity of the defendant's allegations.' 184 F.Supp. at 883.

We think the District Court did not proceed in conformity with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 2255, 28 U.S.C.A. § 2255, when it made findings on controverted issues of fact without notice to the petitioner and without a hearing. United States v. Hayman, 342 U.S. 205, 220, 72 S.Ct. 263, 96 L.Ed. 232. The statute requires a District Court to 'grant a prompt hearing' when such a motion is filed, and to 'determine the issues and make findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect thereto' unless 'the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief.'3 This was not a case where the issues raised by the motion were conclusively determined either by the motion itself or by the 'files and records' in the trial court. The factual allegations contained in the petitioner's motion and affidavit, and put in issue by the affidavit filed with the Government's response, related primarily to purported occurrences outside the courtroom and upon which the record could, therefore, cast no real

Page 495

light. Nor were the circumstances alleged of a kind that the District Judge could completely resolve by drawing upon his own personal knowledge or recollection.

We cannot agree with the Government that a hearing in this case would be futile because of the apparent lack of any eyewitnesses to the occurrences alleged, other than the petitioner himself and the Assistant United States Attorney. The petitioner's motion and affidavit contain charges which are detailed and specific. It is not unreasonable to suppose that many of the material allegations can either be corroborated or disproved by the visitors' records of the county jail where the petitioner was confined, the mail records of the penitentiary to which he was sent, and other such sources. 'Not by the pleadings and the affidavits, but by the whole of the testimony, must it be determined whether the petitioner has carried his burden of proof and shown his right to a discharge. The Government's contention that his allegations are improbable and unbelievable cannot serve to deny him an opportunity to support them by evidence. On this record it is his right to be heard.' Walker v. Johnston, 312 U.S. 275, at 287, 61 S.Ct. 574, 579.

What has been said is not to imply that a movant must always be allowed to appear in a district court for a full hearing if the record does not conclusively and expressly belie his claim, no matter how vague, conclusory, or palpably incredible his allegations may be. The language of the statute does not strip the district courts of all discretion to exercise their common sense. Indeed, the statute itself recognizes that there are times when allegations...

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1817 practice notes
  • United States v. Batamula, No. 12–20630.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 3 mai 2016
    ...records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). In Machibroda v. United States, 368 U.S. 487, 494–95, 82 S.Ct. 510, 7 L.Ed.2d 473 (1962), the Supreme Court explained that the relevant “files and records” relate only to proceedings befo......
  • Pope v. United States, No. 18272.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • 14 mars 1967
    ...S.Ct. 468, 7 L.Ed.2d 417 (1962), although the Court in both those cases denied post-conviction relief, and in Machibroda v. United States, 368 U.S. 487, 489, 82 S.Ct. 510, 7 L.Ed.2d 473 (1962). We have said ourselves that allocution in the federal system is a substantial right and that "fai......
  • Charnock v. Herbert, No. 97-CV-194E(F).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • 6 juillet 1999
    ...facts supported by competent evidence, which, if proved at a hearing, would entitle to him to relief. See Machibroda v. United States, 368 U.S. 487, 494-95, 82 S.Ct. 510, 7 L.Ed.2d 473 (1962); United States v. Aiello, 814 F.2d 109, 113 (2d Cir.1987); Ramirez v. Headley, 1998 WL 788782, *10 ......
  • Hardy v. United States, 11 Civ. 8382, 10 Cr. 1123 (JSR) (AJP)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 14 mars 2012
    ...Section 2255, however, "does not strip the district courts of all discretion to exercise their common sense." Machibroda v. United States, 368 U.S. 487, 495, 82 S. Ct. 510, 514 (1962). Section 2255 provides that the "court may entertain and determine such motion without requiring the produc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1826 cases
  • United States v. Batamula, No. 12–20630.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 3 mai 2016
    ...records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). In Machibroda v. United States, 368 U.S. 487, 494–95, 82 S.Ct. 510, 7 L.Ed.2d 473 (1962), the Supreme Court explained that the relevant “files and records” relate only to proceedings befo......
  • Pope v. United States, No. 18272.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • 14 mars 1967
    ...S.Ct. 468, 7 L.Ed.2d 417 (1962), although the Court in both those cases denied post-conviction relief, and in Machibroda v. United States, 368 U.S. 487, 489, 82 S.Ct. 510, 7 L.Ed.2d 473 (1962). We have said ourselves that allocution in the federal system is a substantial right and that "fai......
  • Charnock v. Herbert, No. 97-CV-194E(F).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • 6 juillet 1999
    ...facts supported by competent evidence, which, if proved at a hearing, would entitle to him to relief. See Machibroda v. United States, 368 U.S. 487, 494-95, 82 S.Ct. 510, 7 L.Ed.2d 473 (1962); United States v. Aiello, 814 F.2d 109, 113 (2d Cir.1987); Ramirez v. Headley, 1998 WL 788782, *10 ......
  • Hardy v. United States, 11 Civ. 8382, 10 Cr. 1123 (JSR) (AJP)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 14 mars 2012
    ...Section 2255, however, "does not strip the district courts of all discretion to exercise their common sense." Machibroda v. United States, 368 U.S. 487, 495, 82 S. Ct. 510, 514 (1962). Section 2255 provides that the "court may entertain and determine such motion without requiring the produc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Press Coverage of the United States Supreme Court
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 17-1, March 1964
    • 1 mars 1964
    ...the AP story at 10:50 A.M. started out: 42 St. Helena Parish School Board v. Hall, 368 U.S. 515 (1962). 43 Machibroda v. United States, 368 U.S. 487 370 U.S. 139 (1962). 34 &dquo;The Supreme Court ruled today a witness in a state legislative investigation may becompelled to answer questions......

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