Hamilton v. Alabama

LOCATION: Vilage of Kake

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 368 US 52 (1961)
ARGUED: Oct 17, 1961
DECIDED: Nov 13, 1961

Facts of the case


Media for Hamilton v. Alabama

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 17, 1961 in Hamilton v. Alabama

Earl Warren:

Number 32, Charles Clarence Hamilton, Petitioner, versus Alabama.

Mrs. Motley.

Constance B. Motley:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case is here pursuant to the provisions of Title 28, United States Code Section 13 -- Section 1257 (3), petitioner having asserted below in here rights secured by the constitution of the United States.

The rights asserted below and here are rights guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution specifically the unqualified right to counsel in every stage of the capital case and the right to a trial on a capital charge which afforded the petitioner a fair hearing.

Now, this case is here for the second time.

Petitioner first sought to have this Court review his case during the October 1959 term when he petitioned this Court to grant a writ of certiorari to review the judgment of the Supreme Court of Alabama affirming his conviction on a charge of burglary with intent to ravish for which he had been sentenced to death.

In that petition, the petitioner claimed, as he now claims, that he had been denied due process of law in that he had not had counsel at the time of arraignment.

And in that he was denied the fundamentals of a fair trial.

On his appeal from his conviction to the Supreme Court of Alabama, he made this same claim.

Now with respect to the first claims, the Supreme Court of Alabama ruled that it had no quarrel with the petitioner's claims right to counsel in a capital case where the accused is unable to afford counsel and the petitioner's claim of right to counsel at the time of arraignment.

But the court ruled that these principles were without application to the case before it because the record on its face read that the petitioner was represented by counsel at the time of the arraignment.

Petitioner sought to prove by reference to a certified copy of the bench notes of the trial judge that he had not in fact then represented by a counsel at the time of his arraignment.

But the Supreme Court of Alabama ruled that the state law precluded impeachment of the minute entry of record which showed that counsel was present at the time of arraignment and at the time of trial.

In his October petition to this Court from that ruling of the Supreme Court of Alabama, petitioner asked this Court to find as a fact that he did not have counsel at the time of arraignment, that this deprived him of due process of law, and that the conduct of the trial in view of the representations of this petitioner by his court-appointed counsel among other things did not make due process requirements.

Now, in opposition to that first petition for certiorari in 1959, the State of Alabama filed a brief in opposition thereto.

And on pages five and six of that brief, the state said this, “The burden is not on the State of Alabama to explain the fancy inconsistency as to why the minute entry of the record shows that the defendant did have counsel at his arraignment and yet his trial counsel was apparently appointed three days later.”

Actually, the counsel in the particular case have appointed quite some time prior to the official judgment entry to defend the petitioner on a previous indictment and remained assigned as counsel to the defendant throughout and including the day of arraignment on the second indictment.

The two entries of judgment are not in conflict and the statement by the petitioner that the defendant was deprived of counsel at the time of his arraignment is pure conjecture on the part of the petitioner's counsel.

Then Alabama pointed out that however, petitioner still had available to him another remedy to attack the judgment entry in this case with extrinsic matter.

That method it said was by writ of error coram nobis.

This Court refused to review that decision of the Supreme Court of Alabama affirming his conviction.

Now after that, the petitioner then filed in the Supreme Court of Alabama a petition for leave to file a writ of error coram nobis in the trial court.

In that petition he alleged that he had been indicted on November 9th, 1956 for the crime of burglary in the nighttime with intent to steal.

Arraigned on this charge on January 4th, 1957 at which time his counsel Mr. Mayfield was appointed and entered a plea of not guilty.

Trial was set for January 14th, 1957 but was passed four times until April 24th, 1957 when the case was now crossed on recommendation of the Solicitor.

Now in this petition for leave to file a writ of error coram nobis, petitioner also pointed out that on February 12, 1957 before the first indictment was nolle pros, he was indicted the second time by the grand jury.

This time he was indicted for burglary with intent to steal in one count and burglary with intent to ravish.

He was arraigned on this second indictment on March 1st, 1957 at which time he again pleaded not guilty but this time without the aid, advice or representation of counsel.

Counsel is not appointed for him he alleged until March 4th, 1957.