LOCATION: Souther District Court of Georgia
DOCKET NO.: 750
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1969)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court
CITATION: 395 US 250 (1969)
ARGUED: Apr 23, 1969
DECIDED: Jun 02, 1969
Facts of the case
Media for Harrington v. California
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 23, 1969 in Harrington v. California
Number 750, Glen Martin Harrington, petitioner versus California.
Roger S. Hanson:
Chief Justice Warren, may it please the Court.
This is a first-degree murder case out of the State of California from the City of Los Angeles and my client Mr. Harrington according to evidence participated in the robbery of a liquor store in the City of Los Angeles along with three other codefendants.
The interesting thing about it was the -- three of the codefendants were Negro, Mr. Harrington was a Caucasian, and that is a significant factor which I'll point out as we go along here a little bit.
The Court held the preliminary hearing in the case, according to California procedure, and at the time of the preliminary hearing why it showed quite conclusively that there's going to be a lot of problems in the way of confessions.
It seems that all three of the other codefendants Mr. Rhone, Mr. Bosby, and Mr. Cooper had made confessions which implicated themselves and each other and Mr. Harrington in this particular crime.
At the time of the trial setting in various preliminary motions counsel for Mr. Harrington attempted to get a severance of the trials because of this problem and at that time he cited case of Delli Paoli versus United States and the Jackson versus Denno decision of this Court in an effort to get these trials severed.
These motions were denied by the trial court.
And at various times during the trial motions were made to sever the thing each time as to Harrington being denied.
I think it rather interesting that throughout this trial, numerous pages were devoted to in-chambers discussion between the counsel and the Court in an effort to alter these various confessions in such a way that no incriminating statements were made as to one man versus the other.
I set that out in my brief and it's contained in the single appendix for the Court and I think it's very exemplary of the impossibility in this particular case that is in most cases to make a meaningful deletion of the names to the point where in this case it became so ridiculous that the Court upon being accused by Mr. Harrington's attorney at that time of trying to make the matter more difficult for his counsel said, "I'm going to let all of these confessions going in just the way they stand unedited."
Now, Mr. Rhone made the confession which was probably the most damaging and I suppose the single possibly weak point in my position here is that Mr. Rhone in fact did take the stand for cross-examination.
The other two gentlemen, Mr. Cooper and Mr. Bosby are referred to Mr. Harrington as the white man, the Caucasian and various other terms never actually calling him by name which is a probably cause of the fact that they didn't know each other too well.
And so in that particular sense neither one of the other two actually named Mr. Harrington but without a doubt because all four of them were being jointly tried, all four of them setting at the counsel table together, three negroes and the Caucasian Mr. Harrington coupled with Mr. Rhone's confession actually naming Mr. Harrington where there's little doubt that in my opinion all four these confessions, there are three of the confessions, solidified each other and brought home the inevitable result that took place in this particular trial.
Now, it's my contention here of course when I filed the petition for certiorari of this Court it was prior to the decision of the Court in Bruton versus United States and Roberts versus Russell.
At the time I filed petition, I was going after a reversal of the Delli Paoli case and so when the Court handed down the Bruton decision, Roberts versus Russell decision, I anticipated the cases being remanded to the Second District Court of Appeals in California with the usual admonition to reconsider the case in a matter not inconsistent with this particular opinion.
And so I was elated to have a chance come to Washington when the Court granted a hearing in the case.
It's my contention upon reviewing all the decisions of this Court and the prime one that I hang my head on is the Brookhart versus Janis case, 384 U.S. 1 decision by Mr. Justice Black which I've cited throughout my documents that I've filed that if there was a denial of confrontation of witnesses without waiver why it be a constitutional error, the first order magnitude and no amount of prejudice -- one, a prejudice would save this error from the case.
Of course in the Brookhart case as the Court knows with malice aforethought, the confession of the codefendant was actually used against Mr. Brookhart.
It was introduced for that particular purpose and so the Court without hesitation in an eight-man opinion by Mr. Justice Black reversed that case without recourse to any consideration of harmless error rule.
In the Bruton case then if I interpret that case correctly the Court went on to acknowledge that in its opinion it would be impossible for a jury to discern the difference between confession to this type being given by (a) with an instruction do not consider against (b) only considered against (a) never against (b), by Mr. Justice Brennan in that case if I add Brookhart to Bruton, it's my position in front of this Court today that it calls for an automatic reversal of this case and all such cases on a national basis without recourse to any harmless error rules whatsoever.
Now, in the concurring opinion by Mr. Justice Stewart in Chapman versus California there is numerous type of errors at the setout which call for automatic reversal.
As I understand Mr. Justice Stewart in that case you took position that no harmless error rule should be applied at all with these particular type of errors.
And as I go through the various types of cases that this Court has passed judgment on the Gideon versus Wainwright type of denial at counsel reversed without recourse to a harmless error and retroactively so.
The Jackson versus Denno case which is a very analogous type of error reversed without the recourse to a harmless error rule, retroactively so.
In other words, we have in one hand as I study the cases, the type of errors that actually took place during the trial itself the denial of counsel at trial.
The introduction of course confessions, this type of thing which actually permeated at the very trial itself as opposed to certain pretrial type of maneuvers in the way of the Miranda errors where the Court said that it's a reason for reversing and not making it retroactive was because of the fact it wanted to discourage police conduct in this errors.
The search and seizure issues of course are along the same line but this type of error which we have in front of the Court today; to me, there can be no question whatsoever that it has to be resulting in a reversal without recourse to any harmless error rules whatsoever.
I think based to my own personal experience in Los Angeles and trying some major cases that I can think of no more severe error that a defense counsel would have to attempt to overcome in this particular one that took place in this case.