Shepherd v. State of Florida, No. 420

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; JACKSON
Citation95 L.Ed. 740,71 S.Ct. 549,341 U.S. 50
PartiesSHEPHERD et al. v. STATE OF FLORIDA
Docket NumberNo. 420
Decision Date09 April 1951

341 U.S. 50
71 S.Ct. 549
95 L.Ed. 740
SHEPHERD et al.

v.

STATE OF FLORIDA.

No. 420.
Argued March 9, 1951.
Decided April 9, 1951.

Messrs. Franklin H. Williams, and Robert L. Carter, New York City, for petitioners.

Mr. Reeves Bowen, Tallahassee, Fla., for respondent.

PER CURIAM.

The judgment is reversed. Cassell v. State of Texas, 339 U.S. 282, 70 S.Ct. 629, 94 L.Ed. 839.

Mr. Justice JACKSON, whom Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER joins, concurring in the result.

On the 16th of July, 1949, a seventeen-year-old white girl in Lake County, Florida, reported that she had been raped, at the point of a pistol, by four Negroes. Six days later petitioners were indicted and, beginning September 1, were tried for the offense, convicted without recommendation of mercy, and sentenced to death.1 The Supreme Court of Florida, in reviewing evidence of guilt,

Page 51

said, 'As we study the testimony, the only question presented here is which set of witnesses would the jury believe, that is, the State's witnesses or the testimony as given by the defendant-appellants.'2

But projudicial influences outside the courtroom, becoming all too typical of a highly publicized trial, were brought to bear on this jury with such force that the conclusion is inescapable that these defendants were prejudged as guilty and the trial was but a legal gestrue to register a verdict already dictated by the press and the public opinion which is generated.

Newspapers published as a fact, and attributed the information to the sheriff, that these defendants had confessed. No one, including the sheriff, repudiated the story.3 Witnesses and persons called as jurors said they had read or heard of this statement. However, no confession was offered at the trial. The only rational explanations for its nonproduction in court are that the story was false or that the confession was obtained under circumstances which made it inadmissible or its use inexpedient.4

If the prosecutor in the courtroom had told the jury that the accused had confessed but did not offer to prove the confession, the court would undoubtedly have de-

Page 52

clared a mistrial and cited the attorney for contempt. If a confession had been offered in court, the defendant would have had the right to be confronted by the persons who claimed to have witnessed it, to cross-examine them, and to contradict their testimony. If the court had allowed an involuntary confession to be placed before the jury, we would not hesitate to consider it a denial of due process of law and reverse. When such events take place in the courtroom, defendant's counsel can meet them with evidence, arguments, and requests for instructions, and can at least preserve his objections on the record.

But neither counsel nor court can control the admission of evidence if unproven, and probably unprovable, 'confessions' are put before the jury by newspapers and radio. Rights of the defendant to be confronted by witnesses against him and to cross-examine them are thereby circumvented. It is hard to imagine a more prejudicial influence than a press release by the officer of the court charged with defendants' custody stating that they had confessed, and here just such a statement, unsworn to, unseen, uncross-examined and uncontradicted, was conveyed by the press to the jury.

This Court has recently gone a long way to disable a trial judge from dealing with press interference with the trial process, Craig v. Harney, 331 U.S. 367, 67 S.Ct. 1249, 91 L.Ed. 1546; Pennekamp v. State of Florida, 328 U.S. 331, 66 S.Ct. 1029, 90 L.Ed. 1295; Bridges v. State of California, 314 U.S. 252, 62 S.Ct. 190, 86 L.Ed. 192, though it is to be noted that none of these cases involved a trial by jury. And the Court, by strict construction of an Act of Congress, has held not to...

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89 practice notes
  • Miller v. State
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • January 30, 1953
    ...the grand jury that indicts him or the petit jury which tries him solely because of their race or color. Shepherd v. State of Florida, 341 U.S. 50, 71 S.Ct. 549, 95 L.Ed. 740; Moore v. People of State of New York, 333 U.S. 565, 68 S.Ct. 705, 92 L.Ed. 881; Brunson v. State of North Carolina,......
  • Sheppard v. Maxwell, No. 16077.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • July 14, 1965
    ...Stroble v. State of California, 343 U.S. 181, 198, 72 S.Ct. 599, 607, 96 L.Ed. 872 (dissenting opinion); Shepherd v. State of Florida, 341 U.S. 50, 71 S.Ct. 549, 95 L.Ed. 740 (concurring opinion)." Irvin v. Dowd, supra, 366 U.S. at 730, 81 S.Ct. at 1646 (concurring In my opinion the "disreg......
  • News-Journal Corp. v. Foxman, NEWS-JOURNAL
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • August 30, 1991
    ...in the enjoyment of their constitutional rights, may not deprive accused persons of their right to fair trial." Shepherd v. Florida, 341 U.S. 50, 53, 71 S.Ct. 549, 550, 95 L.Ed. 740 (1951). To guarantee the Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial, "[t]he Court has placed an affirmative duty o......
  • United States v. Dickinson, No. 71-3469.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • August 22, 1972
    ...in the enjoyment of their constitutional rights, may not deprive accused persons of their right to fair trial." Shepherd v. Florida, 1951, 341 U.S. 50, 53, 71 S Ct. 549, 550, 95 L.Ed. 740, 743 (Jackson, J. Thus does Alexander again confront the Gordian Knot. For our history demands that bre......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
89 cases
  • Miller v. State
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • January 30, 1953
    ...the grand jury that indicts him or the petit jury which tries him solely because of their race or color. Shepherd v. State of Florida, 341 U.S. 50, 71 S.Ct. 549, 95 L.Ed. 740; Moore v. People of State of New York, 333 U.S. 565, 68 S.Ct. 705, 92 L.Ed. 881; Brunson v. State of North Carolina,......
  • State ex rel. Fox v. La Porte Circuit Court, No. 3583
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • December 17, 1956
    ...accused due process of law. All that was missing in this record was the threat of mob violence. See Shepherd v. State of Florida, 1951, 341 U.S. 50, 71 S.Ct. 549, 95 L.Ed. 740. But there can be a lynching in the minds of the jurors with just as deadly effect as a lynching in fact. 'Impartia......
  • Dell v. Straub, No. 00-CV-71853-DT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • February 28, 2002
    ...campaign to convict", reflecting "inflamed public sentiment." De Lisle v. Rivers, 161 F.3d at 385 (quoting Shepherd v. Florida, 341 U.S. 50, 52-53, 71 S.Ct. 549, 95 L.Ed. 740 (1951)). However, coverage that consists of "straight news stories rather than invidious articles which tend to arou......
  • Briggs v. Elliott, Civ. A. No. 2657.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • June 23, 1951
    ...297 U. S. 278, 56 S.Ct. 461, 80 L.Ed. 682; Chambers v. Florida, 309 U.S. 227, 60 S. Ct. 472, 84 L.Ed. 716; Shepherd v. Florida, 341 U.S. 50, 71 S.Ct. 8 Housing: Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U. S. 60, 38 S.Ct. 16, 62 L.Ed. 149; Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1, 68 S.Ct. 836, 92 L.Ed. 1161. 9 Labor:......
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