Townsend v. Burke, No. 542

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJACKSON
Citation68 S.Ct. 1252,92 L.Ed. 1690,334 U.S. 736
Docket NumberNo. 542
Decision Date14 June 1948
PartiesTOWNSEND v. BURKE

334 U.S. 736
68 S.Ct. 1252
92 L.Ed. 1690
TOWNSEND

v.

BURKE.

No. 542.
Argued April 27, 1948.
Decided June 14, 1948.

Page 737

Mr. Archibald Cox, of Cambridge, Mass., for petitioner.

Mr. Franklin E. Barr, of Philadelphia, Pa., for respondent.

Mr. Justice JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania holds petitioner prisoner under two indeterminate sentences, not exceeding 10 to 20 years, upon a plea of guilty to burglary and robbery. On review here of the State Supreme Court's denial of habeas corpus,1 the prisoner demands a discharge by this Court on federal constitutional grounds.

Petitioner, while a fugitive, was indicted on June 1, 1945, for burglary and armed robbery. Four of his alleged accomplices had been arrested on May 18, 1945, and signed a joint confession, while a fifth had been arrested on May 21, 1945, and had also June 3, 1945, and confessed on June 4. On confessed. Petitioner was arrested on June 5, after pleading guilty to two charges of robbery and two charges of burglary and not guilty to other charges, he was sentenced.

Petitioner now alleges violation of his constitutional rights in that, excet for a ten-minute conversation with his wife, he was held incommunicado for a period of 40

Page 738

hours between his arrest and his plea of guilty. He does not allege that he was beaten, misused, threatened or intimidated, but only that he was held for that period and was several times interrogated. He does not allege that the questioning was continuous or that it had any coercive effect.

The plea for relief because he was detained as he claims, unlawfully is based on McNabb v. United States, 318 U.S. 332, 63 S.Ct. 608, 87 L.Ed. 819. But the rule there applied was one against use of confessions obtained during illegal detention and it was limited to federal courts, to which it was applied by virtue of our supervisory power. In this present case no confession was used because the plea of guilty in open court dispensed with proof of the crime. Hence, lawfulness of the detention is not a factor in determining admissibility of any confession and if he were temporarily detained illegally it would have no bearing on the validity of his present confinement based on his plea of guilty, particularly since he makes no allegation that it induced the plea.

Petitioner also relies on Haley v. Ohio, 332 U.S. 596, 68 S.Ct. 302, in which this Court reversed a state court murder conviction because it was believed to have been based on a confession wrung from an uncounseled 15-year-old boy held incommunicado during questioning by relays of police for several hours late at night. Even aside from the differing facts, that case provides no precedent for relief to this prisoner since, as has been said, no confession was used against him, and he does not allege that his pleas of guilty resulted from his allegedly illegal detention.

Petitioner also says that when he was brought into court to plead, he was not represented by counsel, offered assignment of counsel, advised of his right to counsel or instructed with particularity as to the nature of the crimes with which he was charged. This, he says, under the circumstances deprived his conviction and sentence

Page 739

of constitutional validity by reason of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.2

Only recently a majority of this Court reaffirmed that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not prohibit a State from accepting a plea of guilty in a non-capital case from an uncounseled defendant. Bute v. Illinois, 333 U.S. 640, 68 S.Ct. 763. In that, and in earlier cases, we have indicated, however, that the disadvantage from absence of counsel, when aggravated by...

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1805 practice notes
  • United States v. Fatico, No. 76-CR-81.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • December 1, 1977
    ...least two other occasions the Supreme Court has expressed concern about the reliability of sentencing information. In Townsend v. Burke, 334 U.S. 736, 68 S.Ct. 1252, 92 L.Ed. 1690 (1948), decided a year before Williams, the Court overturned a sentence imposed by a Pennsylvania court on the ......
  • Lebar v. Thompson, CIVIL NO. 3:CV-08-0072
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • May 13, 2013
    ...sentence, such a claim is not grounds for federal habeas relief unless the sentence exceeds limits set by state law. Townsend v. Burke, 334 U.S. 736, 741 (1948). Generally, a state court's sentencing decision and claims arising out of that decision are not cognizable in a federal habeas pro......
  • Rhea v. Jones, Case No. 1:06-cv-41.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • November 26, 2008
    ...6-7). The Due Process Clause prohibits a court from imposing a sentence based on nonexistent previous convictions. See Townsend v. Burke, 334 U.S. 736, 68 S.Ct. 1252, 92 L.Ed. 1690 (1948). This due-process principle requires that a criminal defendant be given fair notice of the prior convic......
  • Schmidt v. Foster, No. 17-1727
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • May 29, 2018
    ...Massiah v. United States , 377 U.S. 201, 206, 84 S.Ct. 1199, 12 L.Ed.2d 246 (1964) (pretrial interrogation); Townsend v. Burke , 334 U.S. 736, 740–41, 68 S.Ct. 1252, 92 L.Ed. 1690 (1948) (sentencing); Mempa v. Rhay , 389 U.S. 128, 137, 88 S.Ct. 254, 19 L.Ed.2d 336 (1967) (deferred sentencin......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1796 cases
  • United States v. Fatico, No. 76-CR-81.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • December 1, 1977
    ...least two other occasions the Supreme Court has expressed concern about the reliability of sentencing information. In Townsend v. Burke, 334 U.S. 736, 68 S.Ct. 1252, 92 L.Ed. 1690 (1948), decided a year before Williams, the Court overturned a sentence imposed by a Pennsylvania court on the ......
  • Lebar v. Thompson, CIVIL NO. 3:CV-08-0072
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • May 13, 2013
    ...sentence, such a claim is not grounds for federal habeas relief unless the sentence exceeds limits set by state law. Townsend v. Burke, 334 U.S. 736, 741 (1948). Generally, a state court's sentencing decision and claims arising out of that decision are not cognizable in a federal habeas pro......
  • Rhea v. Jones, Case No. 1:06-cv-41.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • November 26, 2008
    ...6-7). The Due Process Clause prohibits a court from imposing a sentence based on nonexistent previous convictions. See Townsend v. Burke, 334 U.S. 736, 68 S.Ct. 1252, 92 L.Ed. 1690 (1948). This due-process principle requires that a criminal defendant be given fair notice of the prior convic......
  • Stewart v. MaCauley, Case No. 1:20-cv-68
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • April 7, 2020
    ...Roberts v. United States, 445 U.S. 552, 556 (1980)); see also United States v. Tucker, 404 U.S. 443, 447 (1972); Townsend v. Burke, 334 U.S. 736, 741 (1948). To prevail on such a claim, the petitioner must show (1) that the information before the sentencing court was materially false, and (......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • The Effect of Attorney Type on Bail Decisions
    • United States
    • Criminal Justice Policy Review Nbr. 28-1, February 2017
    • February 1, 2017
    ...v. Frye, 566 U.S. ___ (2012).Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 455 (1932).Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984).Townsend v. Burke, 334 U.S. 736 (1948).Author BiographyMarian R. Williams is a professor of Criminal Justice in the Department of Government and Justice Studies at Appalachian S......
  • The Supreme Court as Protector of Civil Rights: Criminal Justice
    • United States
    • ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, The Nbr. 275-1, May 1951
    • May 1, 1951
    ...C.J., Rutledge, JJ., dissenting. Reed, Burton, JJ., dissenting; Townsend v. Conviction reversed: Townsend v. Burke, Burke, 334 U. S. 736 (1948)—Vinson, 334 U. S. 736 (1948)—Vinson, C.J., Reed, Reed, Burton, JJ., dissenting; Uveges v. Penn- Burton, JJ., dissenting; Uveges v. Penn......

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