Douglas v. Alabama

LOCATION: United States Post Office and Courthouse

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 380 US 415 (1965)
ARGUED: Mar 09, 1965 / Mar 10, 1965
DECIDED: Apr 05, 1965

Facts of the case


Media for Douglas v. Alabama

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 10, 1965 in Douglas v. Alabama

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 09, 1965 in Douglas v. Alabama

Hugo L. Black:

Number -- the next case is Number 313, Jesse Elliott Douglas, Petitioner, against the State of Alabama.

You may proceed.

Charles Cleveland:

Mr. Justice Black and the other Justices of the Court.

I'm Charles Cleveland of the firm of Gordon and Cleveland in Birmingham, Alabama.

This is my associate, Bryan Chancey at the counsel table with me.

We represent Jesse Elliott Douglas, who was convicted of assault with an intent to murder in Selma in Dallas County, Alabama.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and Justice Kate wrote an opinion for the Court of Appeals of Alabama affirming this conviction.

The certiorari to this Court has been limited to a consideration of constitutional issues arising out of two factual situations that occurred during the defendant's trial.

During his trial, the prosecutor called an alleged accomplice, Olen Ray Loyd to the stand.

Mr. Loyd had been tried in a companion case on a previous day and a jury had returned a verdict against him.

He had not been adjudicated guilty but a -- he had given notice that he intended to appeal.

This fact was brought to the Court's attention when Mr. Loyd was called to the stand and an objection was made to him being put on the stand at all.

And this objection was overruled.

While he was on the stand, the prosecutor read to him in the presence of the jury a ten-page confession that he had made while he in the Selma jail.

Now, this confession was not admissible in evidence and was not offered.

We contend that each of these two factual situations involved two rules of constitutional law.

One of these rules is the rule enunciated by this Court in Mooney against Holohan.

This rule is that where a prosecutor commits such conduct that is prejudicial to the rights of the defendant so as to deprive him of a fair trial that this is a violation of due process of law.

This rule has been reaffirmed many times by this Court and I've cited a number of cases in the briefs and we contend that this action or each of these two acts of the prosecutor, both in calling Mr. Loyd to the stand and then reading to him this inadmissible document, both constitute such a misconduct on the part of the prosecutor as to prejudice the jury and to deny the defendant a fair trial.

This rule is based on a premise that the prosecutor is an official of the State and his acts as a prosecutor are particularly susceptible to prejudice the jury if they're not fair and impartial.

Now, the record clearly reveals that the prosecutor had no legitimate reason for calling Mr. Loyd to the stand.

He had no reason to anticipate that he would testify as to anything.

Mr. Loyd, the previous day, had repudiated his own confession and had refused to take the stand on his own behalf.

The prosecutor has not made any claim or the State doesn't claim that there was any evidence that the prosecutor felt that he might testify and when he was called to the stand, the defendant's attorney who was also Mr. Loyd's attorney objected to his being called to the stand and told the Court that he would intend to take his constitutional rights.

In spite of this, the Court allowed him to be put on the stand, primarily for the purpose of invoking his rights against self-incrimination which in turn prejudiced the jury.

(Voice Overlap)

Potter Stewart:

Did the -- did the Court indicate that he had no right having been convicted in there?

Charles Cleveland:

Yes, that was the court's opinion.

The court stated that because of his prior conviction --

Potter Stewart: