Magoon v. Smith, 181-71

Decision Date05 December 1972
Docket NumberNo. 181-71,181-71
Citation298 A.2d 820,130 Vt. 603
PartiesRobert E. MAGOON v. Robert G. SMITH, Warden.
CourtVermont Supreme Court

Frederick M. Niland, White River Junction, for plaintiff.

James M. Jeffords, Atty. Gen., and William T. Keefe, Asst. Atty. Gen., for defendant.

Before BARNEY, SMITH and KEYSER, JJ., and LARROW and UNDERWOOD, Superior Judges.

SMITH, Justice.

On May 13, 1953, Robert E. Magoon entered a plea of guilty to murder in the second degree in the Windham County Court. Judgment was entered and a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment was imposed. On March 25, 1971, the plaintiff filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Windsor County Court. On November 11, 1971, this petition, after hearing, was denied and the plaintiff has appealed here.

It was conceded before this Court at the time of hearing on the appeal that the plaintiff was no longer confined in the Vermont State Prison, he being now released on parole. Consequently he is no longer in the custody of Warden Smith and habeas corpus does not lie against such officer at this stage of the proceedings.

However, because he is in at least technical custody under sentence of a court, we will treat the matter as if the plaintiff had brought his petition under the postconviction relief statute, which is, substantively, a special statutory remedy in the nature of habeas corpus, applicable to those 'in custody under sentence of a court.' In Re Clark, 127 Vt. 555, 557, 255 A.2d 178, 180.

The first question presented by the plaintiff is:

Was the defendant criminally responsible for the killing of Rosamund Burrington to the extent that he was guilty of murder in the second degree beyond a reasonable doubt?

The second question is:

Did the defendant have the benefit of effective assistance of counsel prior to and at the time when he entered a plea of guilty under advice of counsel to the amended charge of murder in the second degree on May 13, 1953, a capital offense?

The plaintiff was indicted for first degree murder by a Grand Jury in Windham County on April 14, 1953. He was immediately assigned counsel by the Windham County Court, and entered pleas of not guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity and not guilty by reason of temporary aberration upon arraignment. The plaintiff underwent psychiatric examination by physicians at the State Hospital at Waterbury, as well as by a psychiatrist of his own choice. On May 13, 1953, the plaintiff withdrew his previous pleas to the indictment and entered a plea of guilty to murder in the second degree. Judgment of guilty was entered upon the plea and a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment was imposed. The plaintiff was nineteen years of age at that time.

The plaintiff testified in the habeas corpus hearing below that his attorney entered the plea of guilty for him, that he was not allowed to speak or enter his own plea, and that he was assured by his attorney that he would be given a sentence of twenty-five years. The lower court found such evidence unbelievable, in view of the fact that the transcript of the plea and sentencing showed to the contrary. Such transcript shows that the plaintiff entered his own plea to second degree murder, that he was fully informed of the sentence which he would receive as a result of such plea by the trial court, and had so been previously informed by his attorney. Prior to the entry of the plea of guilty an extensive presentation was made to the trial court relative to the background of the plaintiff, the proof which the State had in its possession relative to the murder, as well as the varied opinions of the psychiatrists who had examined the plaintiff.

The first question presented by the plaintiff, in effect, asks that the question of his guilt or innocence be determined on his petition for habeas corpus. Up until the time of bringing his petition for habeas corpus, in March of 1971, the plaintiff had made no move to expunge his plea of guilty, to vacate his sentence, or to ask for a new trial. The question of sufficiency of evidence to sustain a conviction, as well as like grounds appropriate to an appeal, are not grounds for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. Habeas corpus is not a proceeding for examining into the guilt or innocence of the petitioner. In Re Chester F. Norse, 125 Vt. 460, 461, 218 A.2d 456. Postconviction proceedings, in substance a special statutory remedy in the nature of habeas corpus proceedings, are also not proceedings to inquire into the guilt or innocence of a petitioner.

The real question presented by the plaintiff here is whether or not he had the effective...

To continue reading

Request your trial
5 cases
  • Stewart, In re
    • United States
    • Vermont Supreme Court
    • November 3, 1981
    ...would, since it involves a curtailment of liberty, constitute a form of "custody." Id. at 291-92, 336 A.2d at 193. In Magoon v. Smith, 130 Vt. 603, 298 A.2d 820 (1972), we reached the merits of an attack on a murder conviction by a parolee. The Court noted that habeas jurisdiction was unava......
  • State v. Dean
    • United States
    • Vermont Supreme Court
    • October 9, 1987
    ...relief proceeding and reach the merits. V.R.A.P. 2; see In re Smith, 131 Vt. 24, 25, 298 A.2d 823, 825 (1972); Magoon v. Smith, 130 Vt. 603, 604, 298 A.2d 820, 821 (1972). This treatment will allow us to review the case irrespective of the outcome of State v. Thompson. The motion to dismiss......
  • Berard v. Moeykens, 157-73
    • United States
    • Vermont Supreme Court
    • October 1, 1974
    ...for such a petition, the courts being the same and the presiding judge being different from the sentencing judge. Magoon v. Smith, 130 Vt. 603, 298 A.2d 820 (1972). The main thrust of petitioner's arguments seems to be that (a) the presence of four prosecutors before the grand jury is preju......
  • Smith, In re, 83-263
    • United States
    • Vermont Supreme Court
    • June 8, 1984
    ..."in custody" requirement of 13 V.S.A. § 7131. See State v. McMann, 133 Vt. 288, 291-92, 336 A.2d 190, 192 (1975); Magoon v. Smith, 130 Vt. 603, 604, 298 A.2d 820, 821 (1972). In In re Stewart, 140 Vt. 351, 438 A.2d 1106 (1981), we held that a person who is not incarcerated is nevertheless i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT