Townsend v. Sain

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation372 U.S. 293,83 S.Ct. 745,9 L.Ed.2d 770
Docket NumberNo. 8,8
PartiesCharles TOWNSEND, Petitioner, v. Frank G. SAIN, Sheriff of Cook County, et al. Re
Decision Date18 March 1963

[Syllabus from pages 293-295 intentionally omitted] George N. Leighton, Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.

Edward J. Hladis, Chicago, Ill., for respondent.

Mr. Chief Justice WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case, in its present posture raising questions as to the right to a plenary hearing in federal habeas corpus, comes to us once again after a tangle of prior proceedings. In 1955 the petitioner, Charles Townsend, was tried before a jury for murder in the Criminal Court of Cook County, Illinois. At his trial petitioner, through his court-appointed counsel, the public defender, objected to the introduction of his confession on the ground that it was the product of coercion. A hearing was held outside the presence of the jury, and the trial judge denied the motion to suppress. He later admitted the confession into evidence. Further evidence relating to the issue of voluntariness was introduced before the jury. The charge permitted them to disregard the confession if they found that it was involuntary. Under Illinois law the admissibility of the confession is determined solely by the trial judge, but the question of voluntariness, because it bears on the issue of credibility, may also be presented to the jury. See, e.g., People v. Schwartz, 3 Ill.2d 520, 523, 121 N.E.2d 758, 760; People v. Roach, 369 Ill. 95, 15 N.E.2d 873. The jury found petitioner guilty and affixed the death penalty to its verdict. The Supreme Court of Illinois affirmed the conviction, two justices dissenting. People v. Townsend, 11 Ill.2d 30, 141 N.E.2d 729, 69 A.L.R.2d 371. This Court denied a writ of certiorari. 355 U.S. 850, 78 S.Ct. 76, 2 L.Ed.2d 60.

Petitioner next sought post-conviction collateral relief in the Illinois State courts. The Cook County Criminal Court dismissed his petition without holding an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court of Illinois by order affirmed, holding that the issue of coercion was res judicata, and this Court again denied certiorari. 358 U.S. 887, 79 S.Ct. 128, 3 L.Ed.2d 115. The issue of coercion was pressed at all stages of these proceedings.

Having thoroughly exhausted his state remedies, Townsend petitioned for habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. That court, considering only the pleadings filed in the course of that proceeding and the opinion of the Illinois Supreme Court rendered on direct appeal, denied the writ. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal. 265 F.2d 660. However, this Court granted a petition for certiorari, vacated the judgment and remanded for a decision as to whether, in the light of the state-court record, a plenary hearing was required. 359 U.S. 64, 79 S.Ct. 655, 3 L.Ed.2d 634.

On the remand, the District Court held no hearing and dismissed the petition, finding only that 'Justice would not be served by ordering a full hearing or by awarding any or all of (the) relief sought by Petitioner.' The judge stated that he was satisfied from pages 294-296 state-court records before him that the decision of the state courts holding the challenged confession to have been freely and voluntarily given by petitioner was correct, and that there had been no denial of federal due process of law. On appeal the Court of Appeals concluded that '(o)n habeas corpus, the district court's inquiry is limited to a study of the undisputed portions of the record' and that the undisputed portions of this record showed no deprivation of constitutional rights. 276 F.2d 324, 329. We granted certiorari to determine whether the courts below had correctly determined and applied the standards governing hearings in federal habeas corpus. 365 U.S. 866, 81 S.Ct. 907, 5 L.Ed.2d 859. The case was first argued during the October Term 1961. Two of the Justices were unable to participate in a decision, and we subsequently ordered it reargued. 369 U.S. 834, 82 S.Ct. 864, 7 L.Ed.2d 841. We now have it before us for decision.

The undisputed evidence adduced at the trial-court hearing on the motion to suppress showed the following. Petitioner was arrested by Chicago police shortly before or after 2 a.m. on New Year's Day 1954. They had received information from one Campbell, then in their custody for robbery, that petitioner was connected with the robbery and murder of Jack Boone, a Chicago steelworker and the victim in this case. Townsend was 19 years old at the time, a confirmed heroin addict and a user of narcotics since age 15. He was under the influence of a dose of heroin administered approximately one and one-half hours before his arrest. It was his practice to take injections three to five hours apart. At about 2:30 a.m petitioner was taken to the second district police station and, shortly after his arrival, was questioned for a period variously fixed from one-half to two hours. During this period, he denied committing any crimes. Thereafter at about 5 a.m. he was taken to the 19th district station where he remained, without being questioned, until about 8:15 p.m. that evening. At that time he was returned to the second district station and placed in a line-up with several other men so that he could be viewed by one Anagnost, the victim of another robbery. When Anagnost identified another man, rather than petitioner, as his assailant, a scuffle ensued, the details of which were disputed by petitioner and the police. Following this incident petitioner was again subjected to questioning. He was interrogated more or less regularly from about 8:45 until 9:30 by police officers. At that time an Assistant State's Attorney arrived. Some time shortly before or after nine o'clock, but before the arrival of the State's attorney, petitioner complained to Officer Cagney that he had pains in his stomach, that he was suffering from other withdrawal symptoms, that he wanted a doctor, and that he was in need of a dose of narcotics. Petitioner clutched convulsively at his stomach a number of times. Cagney, aware that petitioner was a narcotic addict, telephoned for a police physician. There was some dispute between him and the State's Attorney, both prosecution witnesses, as to whether the questioning continued until the doctor arrived. Cagney testified that it did and the State's Attorney to the contrary. In any event, after the withdrawal symptoms commenced it appears that petitioner was unresponsive to questioning. The doctor appeared at 9:45. In the presence of Officer Cagney he gave Townsend a combined dosage by injection of 1/8-grain of phenobarbital and 1/230-grain of hyoscine. Hyoscine is the same as scopolamine and is claimed by petitioner in this proceeding to have the properties of a 'truth serum.'

The doctor also left petitioner four or five 1/4-grain tablets of phenobarbital. Townsend was told to take two of these that evening and the remainder the following day. The doctor testified that these medications were given to petitioner for the purpose of alleviating the withdrawal symptoms; the police officers and the State's Attorney testified that they did not know what the doctor had given petitioner. The doctor departed between 10 and 10:30. The medication alleviated the discomfort of the withdrawal symptoms, and petitioner promptly responded to questioning.

As to events succeeding this point in time on January 1, the testimony of the prosecution witnesses and of the petitioner irreconcilably conflicts. However, for the purposes of this proceeding both sides agree that the following occurred. After the doctor left, Officer Fitzgerald and the Assistant State's Attorney joined Officer Cagney in the room with the petitioner, where he was questioned for about 25 minutes. They all then went to another room; a court reporter there took down petitioner's statements. The State's Attorney turned the questioning to the Boone case about 11:15. In less than nine minutes a full confession was transcribed. At about 11:45 the questioning was terminated, and petitioner was returned to his cell.

The following day, Saturday, January 2, at about 1 p.m. petitioner was taken to the office of the prosecutor where the Assistant State's Attorney read, and petitioner signed, transcriptions of the statements which he had made the night before. When Townsend again experienced discomfort on Sunday evening, the doctor was summoned. He gave petitioner more 1/4-grain tablets of phenobarbital. On Monday, January 4, Townsend was taken to a coroner's inquest where he was called to the witness stand by the State and, after being advised of his right not to testify, again confessed. At the time of the inquest petitioner was without counsel. The public defender was not appointed to represent him until his arraignment on January 12.

Petitioner testified at the motion to suppress to the following version of his detention. He was initially questioned at the second district police station for a period in excess of two hours. Upon his return from the 19th district and after Anagnost, the robbery victim who had viewed the line-up, had identified another person as the assailant, Officer Cagney accompanied Anagnost into the hall and told him that he had identified the wrong person. Another officer then entered the room, hit the petitioner in the stomach and stated that petitioner knew that he had robbed Anagnost. Petitioner fell to the floor and vomited water and a little blood. Officer Cagney spoke to Townsend 5 or 10 minutes later, Townsend told him that he was sick from the use of drugs, and Cagney offered to call a doctor if petitioner would 'cooperate' and tell the truth about the Boone murder. Five minutes later the officer had changed his tack; he told petitioner that he thought him innocent and that he would call the doctor, implying that the doctor would give him a narcotic....

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