Culombe v. Connecticut

RESPONDENT: Connecticut
LOCATION: Huntington National Bank

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 367 US 568 (1961)
ARGUED: Jan 19, 1961
DECIDED: Jun 19, 1961

Facts of the case


Media for Culombe v. Connecticut

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 19, 1961 (Part 2) in Culombe v. Connecticut

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 19, 1961 (Part 1) in Culombe v. Connecticut

Earl Warren:

Number 161, Arthur Culombe versus -- Petitioner, versus Connecticut.

Mr. Goldfarb.

Alexander A. Goldfarb:

Honorable Members of this Court, I am the special public defender appointed by the Superior Court of Hartford County one year after the trial of this case.

Petitioner, Your Honors please, is under sentence of death for the crime of murder in the first-degree on two counts, committed in the course of a robbery.

He seeks reversal of the judgement by a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Errors of the State of Connecticut which affirmed the conviction.

The petitioner is raising the issues in this case, involved the admission of three written confessions and one oral confession which were taken as follows, one on Wednesday, February 27th, five days after his apprehension and custody.

Another, Sunday, taken March 3rd, nine days after his apprehension and three days after he was formally charged with murder and third, the third one taken on Monday, March 4, 10 days after his apprehension and four days after he was formally charged with murder.

An oral confession was taken on Wednesday afternoon, February 27th, the day that he gave the first written confession, in the afternoon.

He gave the oral confession in the afternoon and the written confession late that evening or in the early morning hours of Thursday, February 28th.

We claim that these confessions, all of them, were coerced and involuntary and the latter two, namely the ones that were pro -- procured on Sunday and Monday were not only coerced and involuntary, but were procured in denial of counsel in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The undisputed facts supporting these contentions are unequivocally and amply set forth in the record and are particularly outlined in our brief on a day-by-day analysis as stated in pages 4 through 17 of our brief.

It should be noted and it is very noteworthy that when the question of voluntariness is an issue in a court in the State of Connecticut, it is incumbent upon the State to prove that the confession was not involuntary.

In other words, the burden of proof is not upon the defendant to prove voluntariness, but upon the State to prove they were not involuntary.

I think it is well to consider, in considering all of the elements of coercion in this case and this case is a classic one, if I have ever saw one, Members of this Court, that we are dealing here essentially with a mental defective, a man who has the mentality of a nine to a nine and a half year old child with an IQ of 60, with the history of being confined in two state mental institutions, the Bridgewater State Hospital and the Wrentham State Hospital of Massachusetts when he was 17, a man who has been classified as a moron when he was 33 at the time of this crime and classified as an imbecile when he was 17, when he was first confined in the Bridgewater -- Bridgewater State Hospital.

A man whom the state psychiatrist conceded as a moron of a low grade or middle grade caliber and a man who, according to Bertram P.Ibelle, the clinical psychologist in this case, stated as follows.

All testing is consistent and indicative that this is clearly a feeble-minded individual, whose adjustment, both personal and social, could at best be marginal.

His performance is that of a middle grade moron and he can be properly labeled moderately defective.

In addition to being settled with deficient mental equipment with which he must try to cope with life's problems.

Mr. Culombe is also possessed of that character defect so frequently found in individuals of low intellectual caliber, namely he is enormously suggestible.

Thus, lacking in the capacity for sufficient critical judgment, his manner of thinking, his pattern of living and his way of behaving can all be easily influenced by those persons closest to him.

When the influences are benign, he gets along.

When the opposite obtains, he is in trouble.

John M. Harlan II:

Where was that testimony given before --

Alexander A. Goldfarb:

This is -- this was given at the course of a trial by the clinical psychologist, Dr. Bertram P.Ibelle.

A copy of this examination by Dr. Ibelle was made at a formal exhibit in this -- in this case, Your Honor --

John M. Harlan II:

Was it before --

Alexander A. Goldfarb:

-- and this --

John M. Harlan II:

Was it --

Alexander A. Goldfarb:

-- this Court may review this exhibit.

John M. Harlan II:

Was it before the jury or before the judge --