Bruno v. Pennsylvania

RESPONDENT: Pennsylvania
LOCATION: Former New York Times Headquarters

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)

CITATION: 400 US 350 (1971)
ARGUED: Dec 14, 1970
DECIDED: Jan 12, 1971

Facts of the case


Media for Bruno v. Pennsylvania

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 14, 1970 in Bruno v. Pennsylvania

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Number 205, Bruno against the State of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Quinlan.

Daniel L. Quinlan:

Mr. Chief Justice, if the Court please.

John Harry Bruno was born and raised in the Borough of Norristown which is about 20 miles west of Philadelphia and the records in this case show that he attended public school.

It was elicited to the various hearings, habeas corpus hearings, suppression hearings, insanity hearings that he had never been in trouble.

Low and behold, he was drafted by the United States Army in November of 1961 and at some point during his basic training, abbreviated as it was, it was determined that John was unlike the other draftees that he was sick and he was transferred to Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver, Colorado where he was in a psychiatric ward.

He was discharged by the United States Army in May of 1961 and sent home by himself.

Now prior to that, a murder had taken place in October of 1961 in Norristown, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, husband and wife were killed.

Subsequent to John's discharge from the army, he held jobs in Norristown.

He was not in any trouble that anybody knows of, although the records does show that subsequent to December of 1963 when two other people were murdered, John was interrogated by the county detectives and/or the District Attorney's Office and now it's 1964 and given a lie detector test.

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Quinlan, how is this background relevant to the question whether he can be held in custody pending trial --

Daniel L. Quinlan:

Well, Mr. Chief Justice --

Warren E. Burger:

-- while he is -- while he is under a finding that he's incompetent to be tried, that's the real issue of the case, isn't it?

Daniel L. Quinlan:

Yes, sir.

From the very beginning, Mr. Chief Justice, I entered my appearance within a week or 10 days the district attorney -- the District Attorney petitioned for a Sanity Commission, alleging that John was insane and --

Warren E. Burger:

Against his background, wasn't that almost imperative?

Daniel L. Quinlan:

No sir.

All they had -- all they had to base their petition on was the confession that they elicited from John Bruno when they held him for 26 hours without a lawyer.

Warren E. Burger:

But they -- didn't they know his medical history?

Daniel L. Quinlan:

No sir, they did not.

They subpoenaed his medical --

Warren E. Burger:

Does the record show that they didn't know it?

Daniel L. Quinlan:

At that point they didn't know it.

Warren E. Burger:

Does the record show?

Daniel L. Quinlan:

I believe it does, Mr. Chief Justice, yes.

The records of his medical records were not brought into the picture until the Sanity Commission actually sat in 1967 and they subpoenaed them by the order -- the record also show that one judge tranquility signed all of the orders in this case.

Now, I resisted the appointment of the Sanity Commission, at the same time I filed a petition for habeas corpus hearing to find out what they did have against John Bruno.

As Mr. Justice Roberts said, at that first appeal in the State Supreme Court, “How in the world can they can take an illegal confession and hold it here, and say, if John Bruno did these terrible things for the reasons that he gave for doing them, then he must be crazy.”

Now, if the confession is inadmissible in a courtroom, it should not have been used for them to determine that they should proceed sanity.

Warren E. Burger:

In order to maintain that position, you would in effect be saying that a psychiatrist confronted with the statement that he did or may have committed these crimes, and that this was his explanation, would a psychiatrist would not say that this man should be subject to a further psychiatric examination?