Mayberry v. Pennsylvania

Decision Date20 January 1971
Docket NumberNo. 121,121
Citation400 U.S. 455,27 L.Ed.2d 532,91 S.Ct. 499
PartiesRichard MAYBERRY, Petitioner, v. PENNSYLVANIA
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Under the facts of this case, a defendant in a state criminal contempt proceeding who vilified the judge during the course of the defendant's trial in the state court and was sentenced by that judge to 11 to 22 years for the contempt was entitled under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to a public trial before another judge. Pp. 462—466. 434 Pa. 478, 255 A.2d 131, vacated and remanded.

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

Carol Mary Los, Pittsburgh, Pa., for respondent, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court.

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner and two codefendants were tried in a state court for prison breach and holding hostages in a penal institution. While they had appointed counsel as advisers, they represented themselves. The trial ended with a jury verdict of guilty of both charges on the 21st day, which was a Friday. The defendants were brought in for sentencing on the following Monday. Before imposing sentence on the verdicts the judge pronounced them guilty of criminal contempt. He found that petitioner had committed one or more contempts on 11 of the 21 days of trial and sentenced him to not less than one nor more than two years for each of the 11 contempts or a total of 11 to 22 years.

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania affirmed by a divided vote. 434 Pa. 478, 255 A.2d 131. The case is here on a petition for writ of certiorari. 397 U.S. 1020, 90 S.Ct. 1266, 25 L.Ed.2d 530.

Petitioner's conduct at the trial comes as a shock to those raised in the Western tradition that considers a courtroom a hallowed place of quiet dignity as far removed as possible from the emotions of the street.

(1) On the first day of the trial petitioner came to the side bar to make suggestions and obtain rulings on trial procedures. Petitioner said: 'It seems like the court has the intentions of railroading us' and moved to disqualify the judge. The motion was denied. Petitioner's other motions, including his request that the deputy sheriffs in the courtroom be dressed as civilians, were also denied. Then came the following colloquy:

'Mr. Mayberry: I would like to have a fair trial of this case and like to be granted a fair trial under the Sixth Amendment.

'The Court: You will get a fair trial.

'Mr. Mayberry: It doesn't appear that I am going to get one the way you are overruling all our motions and that, and being like a hatchet man for the State.

'The Court: This side bar is over.

'Mr. Mayberry: Wait a minute, Your Honor.

'The Court: It is over.

'Mr. Mayberry: You dirty sonofabitch.'

(2) The second episode took place on the eighth day of the trial. A codefendant was cross-examining a prison guard and the court sustained objections to certain questions:

'Mr. Codispoti: Are you trying to protect the prison authorities, Your Honor? Is that your reason?

'The Court: You are out of order, Mr. Codispoti. I don't want any outbursts like that again. This is a court of justice. You don't know how to ask questions.

'Mr. Mayberry: Possibly Your Honor doesn't know how to rule on them.

'The Court: You keep quiet.

'Mr. Mayberry: You ought to be Gilbert and Sullivan the way you sustain the district attorney every time he objects to the questions.

'The Court: Are you through? When your time comes you can ask questions and not make speeches.'

(3) The next charge stemmed from the examination of an inmate about a riot in prison in which petitioner apparently was implicated. There were many questions asked and many objections sustained. At one point the following outburst occurred:

'Mr. Mayberry: Now, I'm going to produce my defense in this case and not be railroaded into any life sentence by any dirty, tyrannical old dog like yourself.

'The Court: You may proceed with your questioning, Mr. Mayberry.'

(4) The fourth charge grew out of an examination of another defense witness:

'By Mr. Mayberry:

'Q. I ask you, Mr. Nardi, is that area, the handball court, is it open to any prisoner who wants to play handball, who cares to go to that area to play handball?

'A. Yes.

'Q. Did you understand the prior question when I asked you if it was freely open and accessible area?

'The Court: He answered your question. Let's go on.

Mr. Mayberry: I am asking him now if he understands— 'The Court: He answered it. Now, let's go on.

'Mr. Mayberry: I ask Your Honor to keep your mouth shut while I'm questioning my own witness. Will you do that for me?

'The Court: I wish you would do the same. Proceed with your questioning.'

(5) The fifth charge relates to a protest which the defendants made that at the end of each trial day they were denied access to their legal documents—a condition which the trial judge shortly remedied. The following ensued:

'Mr. Mayberry: You're a judge first. What are you working for? The prison authorities, you bum?

'Mr. Livingston: I have a motion pending before Your Honor.

'The Court: I would suggest—

'Mr. Mayberry: Go to hell. I don't give a good God damn what you suggest, you stumbling dog.'

Meanwhile one defendant told the judge if he did not get access to his papers at night he'd 'blow your head off.' Another defendant said he would not sit still and be 'kowtowed and be railroaded into a life imprisonment.' Then the following transpired:

'Mr. Mayberry: You started all this bullshit in the beginning.

'The Court: You keep quiet.

'Mr. Mayberry: Wait a minute.

'The Court: You keep quiet.

'Mr. Mayberry: I am my own counsel.

'The Court: You keep quiet.

'Mr. Mayberry: Are you going to gag me?

'The Court: Take these prisoners out of here. We will take a ten minute recess, members of the jury.'

(6) The sixth episode happened when two of the defendants wanted to have some time to talk to a witness whom they had called. The two of them had had a heated exchange with the judge when the following happened:

'Mr. Mayberry: Just one moment, Your Honor.

'The Court: This is not your witness, Mr. Mayberry. Keep quiet.

'Mr. Mayberry: Oh, yes, he is my witness, too. He is my witness, also. Now, we are at the penitentiary and in seclusion. We can't talk to any of our witnesses prior to putting them on the stand like the District Attorney obviously has the opportunity, and as he obviously made use of the opportunity to talk to his witnesses. Now—

'The Court: Now, I have ruled, Mr. Mayberry.

'Mr. Mayberry: I don't care what you ruled. That is unimportant. The fact is—

'The Court: You will remain quiet, sir, and finish the examination of this witness.

'Mr. Mayberry: No, I won't be quiet while you try to deny me the right to a fair trial. The only way I will be quiet is if you have me gagged. Now, if you want to do that, that is up to you; but in the meantime I am going to say what I have to say. Now, we have the right to speak to our witnesses prior to putting them on the stand. This is an accepted fact of law. It is nothing new or unusual. Now, you are going to try to force us to have our witness testify to facts that he has only a hazy recollection of that happened back in 1965. Now, I believe we have the right to confer with our witness prior to putting him on the stand.

'The Court: Are you finished?

'Mr. Mayberry: I am finished.

'The Court: Proceed with your examination.'

(7) The seventh charge grew out of an examination of a codefendant by petitioner. The following outburst took place:

'By Mr. Mayberry:

'Q. No. Don't state a conclusion because Gilbert is going to object and Sullivan will sustain. Give me facts. What leads you to say that?'

Later petitioner said:

'Mr. Mayberry: My witness isn't being in an inquisition, you know. This isn't the Spanish Inquisition.'

Following other exchanges with the court, petitioner said:

'Mr. Mayberry: Now, just what do you call proper? I have asked questions, numerous questions and everyone you said is improper. I have asked questions that my adviser has given me, and I have repeated these questions verbatim as they came out of my adviser's mouth, and you said they are improper. Now just what do you consider proper?

'The Court: I am not here to educate you, Mr. Mayberry.

'Mr. Mayberry: No. I know you are not. But you're not here to railroad me into no life bit, either.

'Mr. Codispoti: To protect the record—

'The Court: Do you have any other questions to ask this witness?

'Mr. Mayberry: You need to have some kind of psychiatric treatment, I think. You're some kind of a nut. I know you're trying to do a good job for that Warden Maroney back there, but let's keep it looking decent anyway, you know. Don't make it so obvious, Your Honor.'

(8) A codefendant was removed from the courtroom and when he returned petitioner asked for a severance.

'Mr. Mayberry: I have to ask for a severance.

'The Court: I have heard that before. It is denied again. Let's go on.'

(Exception noted.)

'Mr. Mayberry: This is the craziest trial I have ever seen.

'The Court: You may call your next witness, Mr. Mayberry.'

Petitioner wanted to call witnesses from the penitentiary whose names had not been submitted earlier and for whom no subpoenas were issued. The court restricted the witnesses to the list of those subpoenaed:

'Mr. Mayberry: Before I get to that I wish to have a ruling, and I don't care if it is contempt or whatever you want to call it, but I want a ruling for the record that I am being denied these witnesses that I asked for months before this trial ever began.'

(9) The ninth charge arose out of a ruling by the court on a question concerning the availability of tools to prisoners in their cells.

'The Court: I have ruled on that, Mr. Mayberry. Now proceed with your questioning, and don't argue.

'Mr. Mayberry: You're arguing. I'm not arguing, not arguing with fools.'

(10) The court near the end of the trial had petitioner ejected from the...

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