Pate v. Robinson, No. 382

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtCLARK
Citation383 U.S. 375,15 L.Ed.2d 815,86 S.Ct. 836
Decision Date07 March 1966
Docket NumberNo. 382
PartiesFrank J. PATE, Warden, Petitioner, v. Theodore ROBINSON

383 U.S. 375
86 S.Ct. 836
15 L.Ed.2d 815
Frank J. PATE, Warden, Petitioner,

v.

Theodore ROBINSON.

No. 382.
Argued Jan. 26, 1966.
Decided March 7, 1966.

Page 376

Richard A. Michael, Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.

John C. Tucker, Chicago, Ill., for respondent.

Mr. Justice CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1959 respondent Robinson was convicted of the murder of his commonlaw wife, Flossie May Ward, and was sentenced to imprisonment for life. Being an indigent he was defended by court-appointed counsel. It was conceded at trial that Robinson shot and killed Flossie May, but his counsel claimed that he was insane at the time of the shooting and raised the issue of his incompetence to stand trial. On writ of error to the Supreme Court of Illinois it was asserted that the trial court's rejection of these contentions deprived Robinson of due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment. His conviction was affirmed, the court finding that no hearing on mental capacity to stand trial had been equested, that the evidence failed to raise sufficient doubt as to his competence to require the trial court to

Page 377

conduct a hearing on its own motion, and further that the evidence did not raise a 'reasonable doubt' as to his sanity at the time of the offense. People v. Robinson, 22 Ill.2d 162, 174 N.E.2d 820 (1961). We denied certiorari. Robinson v. Pate, 368 U.S. 995, 82 S.Ct. 618, 7 L.Ed.2d 533 (1962). Thereupon, Robinson filed this petition for habeas corpus, which was denied without a hearing by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The Court of Appeals reversed, United States ex rel. Robinson v. Pate, 7 Cir., 345 F.2d 691 (1965), on the ground that Robinson was convicted in an unduly hurried trial without a fair opportunity to obtain expert psychiatric testimony, and without sufficient development of the facts on the issues of Robinson's insanity when he committed the homicide and his present incompetence. It remanded the case to the District Court with directions to appoint counsel for Robinson; to hold a hearing as to his sanity when he committed the alleged offense; and, if it found him to have been insane at that time, to order his release, subject to an examination into his present mental condition. The Court of Appeals directed that the District Court should also determine upon the hearing whether Robinson was denied due process by the state court's failure to conduct a hearing upon his competence to stand trial; and, if it were found his rights had been violated in this respect, that Robinson 'should be ordered released, but such release may be delayed for a reasonable time * * * to permit the State of Illinois to grant Robinson a new trial.' 345 F.2d, at 698. We granted certiorari to resolve the difficult questions of state-federal relations posed by these rulings. 382 U.S. 890, 86 S.Ct. 182, 15 L.Ed.2d 148 (1965). We have concluded that Robinson was constitutionally entitled to a hearing on the issue of his competence to stand trial. Since we do not think there could be a meaningful hearing on that issue at this late date, we direct that the District Court, after affording the State another opportunity to put Robinson to trial on its charges within a reasonable time, order him

Page 378

discharged. Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals in this respect, except insofar as it contemplated a hearing in the District Court on Robinson's competence. Our disposition makes it unnecessary to reach the other reasons given by the Court of Appeals for reversal.1

I.

The State concedes that the conviction of an accused person while he is legally incompetent violates due process, Bishop v. United States, 350 U.S. 961, 76 S.Ct. 440, 100 L.Ed. 835 (1956), and that state procedures must be adequate to protect this right. It insists, however, that Robinson intelligently waived this issue by his failure to request a hearing on his competence at the trial; and further, that on the basis of the evidence before the trial judge no duty rested upon him to order a hearing sua sponte. A determination of these claims necessitates a detailed discussion of the conduct of the trial and the evidence touching upon the question of Robinson's competence at that time.

The uncontradicted testimony of four witnesses2 called by the defense revealed that Robinson had a long history of disturbed behavior. His mother testified that when he was between seven and eight years of age a brick dropped from a third floor hit Robinson on the head. 'He blacked out and the blood run from his head like a faucet.' Thereafter 'he acted a little peculiar.' The blow knocked him 'cockeyed' and his mother took him to a specialist 'to correct the crossness of his eyes.' He also suffered headaches during his childhood, apparently stemming from the same event. His conduct became

Page 379

noticeably erratic about 1946 or 1947 when he was visiting his mother on a furlough from the Army. While Robinson was sitting and talking with a guest, 'he jumped up and run to a bar and kicked a hole in the bar and he run up in the front.' His mother asked 'what on earth was wrong with him and he just stared at (her), and placed the floor with both hands in his pockets.' On other occasions he appeared in a daze, with a 'glare in his eyes,' and would not speak or respond to questions. In 1951, a few years after his discharge from the service, he 'lost his mind and was pacing the floor saying something was after him.' This incident occurred at the home of his aunt, Helen Calhoun. Disturbed by Robinson's conduct, Mrs. Calhoun called his mother about six o'clock in the morning, and she 'went to see about him.' Robinson tried to prevent Mrs. Calhoun from opening the door, saying 'that someone was going to shoot him or someone was going to come in after him.' His mother testified that, after gaining admittance, 'I went to him and hugged him to ask him what was wrong and he went to pushing me back, telling me to get back, somebody was going to shoot him, somebody was going to shoot him.' Upon being questioned as to Robinson's facial expression at the time, the mother stated that he 'had that starey look and seemed to be just a little foamy at the mouth.' A policeman was finally called. He put Robinson, his mother and aunt in a cab which drove them to Hines Hospital. On the way Robinson tried to jump from the cab, and upon arrival at the hospital he was so violent that he had to be strapped in a wheel chair. He then was taken in an ambulance to the County Psychopathic Hospital, from which he was transferred to the Kankakee State Hospital. The medical records there recited:

'The reason for admission: The patient was admitted to this hospital on the 5th day of June, 1952,

Page 380

from the Hines Hospital. Patient began presenting symptoms of mental illness about a year ago at which time he came to his mother's house. He requested money and when it was refused, he suddenly kicked a hole in her bar.

'Was drinking and went to the Psychopathic Hospital. He imagined he heard voices, voices of men and women and he also saw things. He saw a little bit of everything. He saw animals, snakes and elephants and this lasted for about two days. He went to Hines. They sent him to the Psychopathic Hospital. The voices threatened him. He imagined someone was outside with a pistol aimed at him. He was very, very scared and he tried to call the police and his aunt then called the police. He thought he was going to be harmed. And he says this all seems very foolish to him now. Patient is friendly and tries to cooperate.

'He went through an acute toxic episode from which he has some insight. He had been drinking heavily. I am wondering possibly he isn't schizophrenic. I think he has recovered from this condition. I have seen the wife and she is in a pathetic state. I have no objection to giving him a try.'

After his release from the state hospital Robinson's irrational episodes became more serious. His grandfather testified that while Robinson was working with him as a painter's assistant, 'all at once, he would come down (from the ladder) and walk on out and never say where he is going and whatnot and he would be out two or three hours, and at time he would be in a daze and when he comes out, he comes back just as fresh. He just

Page 381

says he didn't do anything. I noticed that he wasn't at all himself.' The grandfather also related that one night when Robinson was staying at his house Robinson and his wife had a 'ruckus,' which caused his wife to flee to the grandfather's bedroom. Robinson first tried to kick down the door. He then grabbed all of his wife's clothes from their room and threw them out in the yard, intending to set them on fire. Robinson got so unruly that the grandfather called the police to lock him up.

In 1953 Robinson, then separated from his wife, brought their 18-month-old son to Mrs. Calhoun's home and asked permission to stay there for a couple of days. She observed that he was highly nervous, prancing about and staring wildly. While she was at work the next day Robinson shot and killed his son and attempted suicide by shooting himself in the head. It appeared that after Robinson shot his son, he went to a nearby park and tried to take his life again by jumping into a lagoon. By his mother's description, he 'was wandering around' the park, and walked up to a policeman and 'asked him for a cigarett.' It was stipulated that he went to the South Park Station on March 10, 1953, and said that he wanted to confess to a crime. When he removed his hat the police saw that he had shot himself in the head. They took him to the hospital for treatment of hiw wound.

Robinson served almost four years in prison for killing his son, being released in September 1956. A few months thereafter he began to live with Flossie May Ward at her home. In the summer of 1957 or 1958 Robinson 'jumped on'...

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2894 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
    ...guilty plea, however, the defendant's competence to stand trial is adjudicated in open court after a competence hearing, Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 385-86, 86 S.Ct. 836, 842-43, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966). The trial court witnesses all of these proceedings and renders credibility findings; ......
  • Benham v. Edwards, No. 80-9052
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • May 27, 1982
    ...competent to stand trial or enter a plea. See Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 95 S.Ct. 896, 43 L.Ed.2d 103 (1975); Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 86 S.Ct. 836, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966). The strength of the presumption of continuing mental illness or insanity is thereby further weakened by th......
  • Harris v. Kuhlmann, No. 97-CV-2289(JS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • September 19, 2000
    ...and ellipses omitted); see also Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 171, 95 S.Ct. 896, 43 L.Ed.2d 103 (1975) (same); Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 378, 86 S.Ct. 836, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966) (stating that the conviction of a legally incompetent person violates due process). A necessary part of ......
  • Williams v. Woodford, No. 99-99018.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • September 10, 2002
    ...2572, 120 L.Ed.2d 353 (1992) (citing Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 172-73, 95 S.Ct. 896, 43 L.Ed.2d 103 (1975), and Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 386, 86 S.Ct. 836, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966)). A state trial judge must conduct a competency hearing, regardless of whether defense counsel requ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2887 cases
  • Miller v. Fenton, No. 83-5530
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • September 28, 1984
    ...guilty plea, however, the defendant's competence to stand trial is adjudicated in open court after a competence hearing, Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 385-86, 86 S.Ct. 836, 842-43, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966). The trial court witnesses all of these proceedings and renders credibility findings; ......
  • Benham v. Edwards, No. 80-9052
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • May 27, 1982
    ...competent to stand trial or enter a plea. See Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 95 S.Ct. 896, 43 L.Ed.2d 103 (1975); Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 86 S.Ct. 836, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966). The strength of the presumption of continuing mental illness or insanity is thereby further weakened by th......
  • Harris v. Kuhlmann, No. 97-CV-2289(JS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • September 19, 2000
    ...and ellipses omitted); see also Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 171, 95 S.Ct. 896, 43 L.Ed.2d 103 (1975) (same); Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 378, 86 S.Ct. 836, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966) (stating that the conviction of a legally incompetent person violates due process). A necessary part of ......
  • Williams v. Woodford, No. 99-99018.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • September 10, 2002
    ...2572, 120 L.Ed.2d 353 (1992) (citing Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 172-73, 95 S.Ct. 896, 43 L.Ed.2d 103 (1975), and Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 386, 86 S.Ct. 836, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966)). A state trial judge must conduct a competency hearing, regardless of whether defense counsel requ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • A Pilot Study of the Porterville Developmental Center’s Court Competency Training Program
    • United States
    • Criminal Justice Policy Review Nbr. 13-1, March 2002
    • March 1, 2002
    ...M. (1998). Fitness, responsibility and judicially ordered assessments. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 43, 491-495. Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375 (1966).Poythress, N., Hoge, S., Bonnie, R., Monahan, J., Eisenberg, M., & Feucht-Haviar, (1998). The competence related abilities of women crimi......

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