Fay v. Noia

LOCATION: Beaumont Mills

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 372 US 391 (1963)
ARGUED: Jan 07, 1963 / Jan 08, 1963
DECIDED: Mar 18, 1963

Facts of the case


Media for Fay v. Noia

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 08, 1963 in Fay v. Noia

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 07, 1963 in Fay v. Noia

Earl Warren:

Edward M. Fay, Warden, et al., Petitioners, versus Charles Noia.

William I. Siegel:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

Earl Warren:

Mr. Siegel, you may proceed.

William I. Siegel:

Thank you.

New York is here in this Court, if the Court please, seeking to reverse a judgment and order of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit which we believe has seriously infringed the sovereignty of the State of New York in the particularly important and delicate field of its right, its constitutional right to make reasonable rules and regulations in the administration of its criminal justice, and I believe, certainly, I hope that the statement of the history of the case were in itself practically be enough to demonstrate the correctness of our contention without any extended discussion of the principles of law which are involved because it would be, it seems to me unnecessarily a waste of time for me to argue the principles of law which have been laid down by this Court and have been written about and decided upon by this Court in a number instances which are in my brief.

In 1942, three men were indicted by a grand jury in Kings County which is the famous Borough of Brooklyn, New York for the crime of murder in the first degree.

They were this respondent Noia, a man named Caminito and a man named Bonino.

And the charge against them was that during the commission of a robbery, they had killed a man named (Inaudible) -- Hammeroff.

They were put to trial and the only evidence which the People produced against them aside from the corpus delicti was the respective confession of each of the defendants.

The confessions of each attack as being involuntary, as a product of police brutality and when the evidence was all in, the trial court charged the jury that this was the only evidence against each defendant, this confession and that the jury -- that the jury had to find the confession both voluntary beyond a reasonable doubt and true beyond a reasonable doubt and that the People's proof didn't reach that measure of quantity and quality.

The respective defendant as to whom the People failed should be acquitted.

Arthur J. Goldberg:


William I. Siegel:


Arthur J. Goldberg:


William I. Siegel:

Our statute which is I think 399 of the Code of Criminal Procedure requires -- says that a confession alone -- a confession may be received in evidence against the defendant unless it is the product of force, threats or promise of immunity by the district attorney.

The only other thing that is necessary is direct proof of the corpus delicti.

But if the jury finds as it did in this case, that the confession was voluntary and true and if we successfully proved the corpus delicti, a basis, a sufficient basis for a verdict and for the judgment which was subsequently entered here, the jury under our law has the power to recommend clemency, they did so and each of these men was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Potter Stewart:

New York has no preliminary hearing as to the voluntariness of the confession --

William I. Siegel:

No, Your Honor.

Potter Stewart:

-- before the judge?

William I. Siegel:

We leave it to the jury.

There's a good deal of debate in New York at the present time as to the propriety of that, but we still leave it to the jury.

I'm ‘neither a prophet nor a prophet's son' but I think the time would come when we use a different system.

Now, I'm coming to what is factually the most crucial question in this whole case.

Bonino and Caminito each appealed first to the appellate division and they had an absolute right to do so because they had the funds to print the record and the brief.

That court unanimously affirmed the judgment against the contention of some procedural error and also the repeated contention of coerced confessions.

They got the leave to go to the Court of Appeals and that court unanimously affirmed the convictions.

Now, I ask Your Honors to remember as the very cornerstone and I believe eventually the capstone of this case that Noia did not appeal.

This is the question on which the whole case turns.

Now, we -- Caminito --