Atchley v. California

RESPONDENT: California
LOCATION: Trailways Bus Terminal

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 366 US 207 (1961)
ARGUED: Apr 25, 1961
DECIDED: May 01, 1961

Facts of the case


Media for Atchley v. California

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1961 (Part 2) in Atchley v. California

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1961 (Part 1) in Atchley v. California

Earl Warren:

Number 95, Veron Atchley, also known as Jack Atchley, Petitioner, versus California.

Ms. Asher.

Rosalie S. Asher:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

Before embarking appointed discussion of the case in its merits, I should like to correct a misstatement or an ambiguity appearing in our reply to respondent's brief.

At page 9 in discussing the case of Ziang Sung Wan versus United States, it might appear that we argue that later cases require a Fifth Amendment to be made applicable to state prosecutions.

Counsels are aware that such is not the rule.

We are aware of Twining versus New Jersey and Adamson versus California.

We can only apologize and explain that this error resulted when as a -- the matter -- as a result of the matter and the haste of which the response was necessarily prepared, the argument was not fully developed.

What should have been further stated is that without claiming that the Fifth Amendment operates to restrict the State of California, we do maintain that all of the factors in this case must be considered in their totality to determine whether or not, this petitioner has been deprived of his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and that the mere absence or presence of threats or promises standing alone is not determinative of the fact as to whether or not the confession was coerced.

The voluntariness of that confession is the crux of this case, in determining which all relevant factors are to be examined.

There is a personal experience in stature of the defendant.

There is trickery and connivance in securing his tape recorded confession.

There is secrecy as well.

The defendant's repeated request for counsel having been denied.

All of these are methods, which history tells us, were involved during the inquisition, when the inquisitors demanded as the State would appear to demand for the police in this case, he completely freehand.

These techniques have survived in authoritarian countries today where setting neighbor, to spy upon neighbor is not uncommon.

And just so, as will be demonstrated, did the State set Mr. Travers to engage in conduct which is a kin to spying.

We know from Chambers versus Florida and countless other cases that lawless means, irrespective of their ends, are not necessary to uphold the laws and are forbidden by the Constitution.

Such practices likewise are inimitable to the accusatorial system, which many cases, including Watts versus Indiana and as recently as Rogers versus Richmond, have declared to be the law of the land under our Constitution.

Jack Atchley is not really the primary concern in this case.

Men have been executed before him on their own confession for homicide.

Doubt was more of a follow.

But the vital consideration is the Constitution and whether under the Fourteenth Amendment, these confessions have been honestly secured.

If this requirement is satisfied, no state conviction will be challenged, for no one condones murder and were all agreed that one who takes a life may not go free.

But very naturally is to be executed in the name of justice and justice, as it has delineated for the States by the Due Process Clause, is not satisfied, if he be executed upon his own confession, say that confession be honestly, freely, openly and voluntarily secured.

As this Court knows, the criterion has been stated in countless ways.

One being that a confession must be the product of a defendant's freewill.

Freewill is a concept troublesome, I think, to philosophers as well as to jurists.

And it's probably alludes in all embracing definition, but neither philosophically nor legally, it is submitted can it be said that a man is exercising his freewill, making a free choice, either to confess or to deny when, because he has duked and deceived, he is not aware that he is confessing.

John M. Harlan II:

Could I ask you a question?