Walker v. Johnston, No. 173

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtROBERTS
Citation312 U.S. 275,61 S.Ct. 574,85 L.Ed. 830
PartiesWALKER v. JOHNSTON, Warden
Decision Date10 February 1941
Docket NumberNo. 173

312 U.S. 275
61 S.Ct. 574
85 L.Ed. 830
WALKER

v.

JOHNSTON, Warden.

No. 173.
Argued Jan. 15, 1941.
Decided Feb. 10, 1941.

Mr. Charles E. Wyzanski, Jr., of Boston, Mass., for petitioner.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 275-277 intentionally omitted]

Page 277

Mr. Herbert Wechsler, of Washington, D.C., for respondent.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 275-277 intentionally omitted]

Page 278

Mr. Justice ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents important questions of practice touching the issue of the writ of habeas corpus. We accordingly granted certiorari in forma pauperis, 311 U.S. 635, 61 S.Ct. 68, 85 L.Ed. -, and appointed counsel for the petitioner to insure adequate presentation at our bar.

The petitioner, who is confined in the Federal prison at Alcatraz, California, under sentence and commitment of

Page 279

the District Court for Northern Texas upon a plea of guilty to an indictment charging armed robbery of a national bank, sought habeas corpus in the District Court for Northern California. His petition recites that he was indicted in the District Court for Northern Texas March 9, 1936; that the cause came on for trial April 28, 1936, and he pleaded guilty; that he was sentenced May 1, 1936, to twelve years' imprisonment, was committed to the penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, May 4, 1936, and is now confined at Alcatraz. The petition alleges that at trial the petitioner was without the assistance of counsel; that he did not waive his right to counsel; that the court did not inquire whether he desired counsel or instruct him that he was entitled to counsel; that he did not know he was so entitled if he had no money to pay an attorney; and that the judgment of conviction is void, as he was deprived of the assistance of counsel for his defence in violation of the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution. The prayer is that the writ issue and that he be released from custody.

The court issued an order to show cause addressed to the warden of the penitentiary. That officer filed a return showing that he held the prisoner under a commitment issued by the Texas District Court and a transfer from Leavenworth to Alcatraz ordered by the Director of the Bureau of Prisons of the Department of Justice. Attached to the return were certified copies of the indictment, minute entries, sentence, and commitment, and docket entries in the cause, transfer order, and record of commitment. Also attached were affidavits of the United States Attorney, the Assistant United States Attorney, and the Probation Officer (formerly a deputy marshal) of the Northern District of Texas. These affiants, or some of them, deposed to the following effect: The petitioner was jointly indicted with one White, who pleaded not guilty, was tried, convicted, and sentenced;

Page 280

the petitioner had no counsel as he entered a plea of guilty. At the time of the commission of the offense for which the petitioner was indicted he was an escaped convict from the State Penitentiary of New Mexico and was brought thence for trial. On the day of the trial, the marshal brought him to the Federal building where the District Attorney talked to him; asked him whether he was guilty and he stated he was; asked him if he was going to plead guilty and he stated he was; asked him whether he had a lawyer and he stated he did not want an attorney as he thought an attorney would be of no value to him. The District Attorney explained to the petitioner that he thought the judge would give him greater consideration, if he was guilty, on his entering a plea of guilty. The petitioner was told his interviewers believed that if he would tell the judge the truth and testify in the case as to his accomplices that fact would be considered by the judge in passing sentence. The petitioner stated he would enter a plea of guilty but would not testify. He refused to say whether the co-defendant White was with him at the time of the robbery and said that he would prefer not to make a statement with respect to other facts in the case. One affiant stated his belief that petitioner told the judge in open court that he had no counsel and did not desire any as he was guilty and intended to plead guilty. Three witnesses identified the petitioner as being one of the men who entered the bank and there was no question of his guilt. After sentence, petitioner expressed his satisfaction at the length of sentence imposed. Some time later a letter was received from the petitioner thanking the District Attorney for what he had done for him.

The petitioner answered, denying that he had stated to one or more of the affiants, or in the presence of one or more of them, that he was guilty or that he intended

Page 281

to plead guilty; that he did not want an attorney or felt that an attorney would be of no value to him. He alleged that he first learned he was to be prosecuted for the offense in question about April 26, 1936, when a deputy marshal took him from New Mexico to Texas; that, prior to trial, the District Attorney, in the presence of the deputy marshal, asked him to plead guilty and he replied that he intended to plead not guilty, whereupon the District Attorney exhibited to him pictures of the scene of the alleged crime and, by means of them and otherwise, sought to persuade him that he would be proved guilty; that the petitioner refused to talk further with the District Attorney at that time; that the District Attorney again visited him and the petitioner then requested that the trial be continued so that he could communicate with his relatives and try to obtain money to enable him to hire an attorney for his defense, but that the District Attorney advised him this was not possible and told him to plead guilty, warning him that he would be sentenced to twice as great a term if he did not so plead; that the petitioner had no relatives or friends near the scene of the trial other than his co- defendant White. He alleged that he requested the District Attorney to be permitted to talk to White or White's attorney, but the request was refused. In view of the District Attorney's warning, and in fear of a heavy prison term, he told the District Attorney he would plead guilty. The answer alleges that petitioner has no information and belief sufficient to enable him to answer the statement concerning his letter claimed to have been sent from the penitentiary and, therefore, denies the fact; denies that the petitioner stated to the judge that he...

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546 practice notes
  • United States v. Batamula, No. 12–20630.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • May 3, 2016
    ...205, 219–20, 72 S.Ct. 263, 96 L.Ed. 232 (1952), or to judge ex parte the plausibility of a petitioner's allegations, Walker v. Johnston, 312 U.S. 275, 287, 61 S.Ct. 574, 85 L.Ed. 830 (1941). As this court explained in Powers:Dismissal of a complaint without a hearing is justified when assum......
  • Skaftouros v. United States , Docket No. 11–0462–cv.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • December 20, 2011
    ...of regularity that attaches to final judgments makes it appropriate to assign a proof burden to the [petitioner].”); Walker v. Johnston, 312 U.S. 275, 286, 61 S.Ct. 574, 85 L.Ed. 830 (1941) (“On a hearing [the § 2241 petitioner has] the burden of sustaining his allegations by a preponderanc......
  • O'MALLEY v. Hiatt, No. 208.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • October 24, 1947
    ...499; Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1, 63 S.Ct. 1, 87 L.Ed. 3. As to the procedure in granting a rule to show cause, see Walker v. Johnston, 312 U.S. 275, 61 S.Ct. 574, 85 L.Ed. The function of habeas corpus is exhausted when it is ascertained that the agency under whose order the petitioner is ......
  • Burns v. Lovett, No. 11419
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 31, 1952
    ...I would remand to the District Court for a hearing on the allegations of the petition. --------Notes: 1 Walker v. Johnston, 1941, 312 U.S. 275, 284, 61 S.Ct. 574, 85 L.Ed. 830; In re Yamashita, 1946, 327 U.S. 1, 66 S.Ct. 340, 90 L.Ed. 499; Palmer v. Ashe, 1951, 342 U.S. 134, 72 S.Ct. 191, 9......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
545 cases
  • United States v. Batamula, No. 12–20630.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • May 3, 2016
    ...205, 219–20, 72 S.Ct. 263, 96 L.Ed. 232 (1952), or to judge ex parte the plausibility of a petitioner's allegations, Walker v. Johnston, 312 U.S. 275, 287, 61 S.Ct. 574, 85 L.Ed. 830 (1941). As this court explained in Powers:Dismissal of a complaint without a hearing is justified when assum......
  • Skaftouros v. United States , Docket No. 11–0462–cv.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • December 20, 2011
    ...of regularity that attaches to final judgments makes it appropriate to assign a proof burden to the [petitioner].”); Walker v. Johnston, 312 U.S. 275, 286, 61 S.Ct. 574, 85 L.Ed. 830 (1941) (“On a hearing [the § 2241 petitioner has] the burden of sustaining his allegations by a preponderanc......
  • O'MALLEY v. Hiatt, No. 208.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • October 24, 1947
    ...499; Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1, 63 S.Ct. 1, 87 L.Ed. 3. As to the procedure in granting a rule to show cause, see Walker v. Johnston, 312 U.S. 275, 61 S.Ct. 574, 85 L.Ed. The function of habeas corpus is exhausted when it is ascertained that the agency under whose order the petitioner is ......
  • Burns v. Lovett, No. 11419
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 31, 1952
    ...I would remand to the District Court for a hearing on the allegations of the petition. --------Notes: 1 Walker v. Johnston, 1941, 312 U.S. 275, 284, 61 S.Ct. 574, 85 L.Ed. 830; In re Yamashita, 1946, 327 U.S. 1, 66 S.Ct. 340, 90 L.Ed. 499; Palmer v. Ashe, 1951, 342 U.S. 134, 72 S.Ct. 191, 9......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • 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
    ...dissenting; Wade v. -Vinson, C.J., Reed, Burton, JJ., dissenting. Mayo, 334 U. S. 672 (1948)—Vinson, C.J., 59 Walker v. Johnston, 312 U. S. 275 ( 1941 ) Reed, Jackson, Burton, JJ., dissenting—this Smith v. O’Grady, 312 U. S. 329 (1941); Rice hearing was in the federal courts. v.......

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