Jackson v. Indiana

LOCATION: Leon County Courthouse

DOCKET NO.: 70-5009
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Indiana

CITATION: 406 US 715 (1972)
ARGUED: Nov 18, 1971
DECIDED: Jun 07, 1972

Frank E. Spencer - for petitioner
Sheldon A. Breskow - for respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Jackson v. Indiana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 18, 1971 in Jackson v. Indiana

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in No. 5009, Jackson against Indiana.

Mr. Spencer.

Frank E. Spencer:

Mr. Justice and may it please the court.

I hope you won't consider my comment too dramatic under the circumstance, if I respectfully call to the Court's attention at the outset that at this time, the petitioner here is confined in the Central State Hospital for the insane in Indianapolis because of two charges, which were filed against him in May of '68, charging the commission of two robberies, ten months before that in 1967, that there has been no hearing in respect to probable cause that the petitioner is a deaf mute, neither able to hear nor to speak, having a mental age of a 3 or 4 year-old child and that the --

Potter Stewart:

He is a deaf child?

Frank E. Spencer:

Yes Sir, I say he is deaf, he is unable to speak.

Potter Stewart:

I thought he was a mental age with 3 or 4-year-old deaf child.

Frank E. Spencer:

The witness at that instance emphasized that and I appreciate your calling that to my attention and he will be confined unless this Court sees fit to do something about it for the rest of his life.

I depreciate the contention of the State of Indiana in this cause, that it makes no difference, that there is no difference between a civil or criminal commitment in this proceeding.

And that he may recover flying in the face of the evidence which was heard by the trial court.

Byron R. White:

Mr. Spencer, if he had been civilly committed, where would he be confined today?

Frank E. Spencer:

He would be at Muscatatuck your honor.

There are two institutions in Indiana, one at Fort Wayne and one at Muscatatuck -- with his age and the area of the state, which he is from, he would be at Muscatatuck.

Byron R. White:

Is this conceded by your opposition that he definitely would be there?

Frank E. Spencer:

I don't.

Well, they disputed to the extent that with a vale of words, they say that he couldn't get there, I don't think that they dispute that if he were in fact committed as a feeble minded person, that he would be at Muscatatuck.

They also repeat their statement of the Supreme Court of Indiana, a very superficial statement that there is nothing to worry about anyway because as a charge of the department of mental health, he could be transferred to Muscatatuck.

It is our position that there is a great difference and that by the holding of our Court for the first time that Muscatatuck is by definition under our statute a psychiatric institution and therefore, that a transfer could be made from the psychiatric institution at Central State Hospital to Muscatatuck does not answer the problem.

He is not at Muscatatuck and if he were at Muscatatuck under a transfer, he would still be held by reason of the commitment of the Criminal Court.

Byron R. White:

Didn't your Supreme Court say however that irrespective of the root, he would be at the same place?

Frank E. Spencer:

They didn't say he would be, they said he could and --

Byron R. White:

You are asking us to not accept to that statement?

Frank E. Spencer:

For practical purposes, I think there is a world of difference and it does not answer the problem Your Honor.

The fact that they now hold and this was a holding for the first instance, and as far as I know, there never has been such a transfer.

They hold as a matter of law.

Now in this case, that the department through the commissioner would have the power to transfer him to Muscatatuck, but that doesn't answer the problem because arriving at Muscatatuck under a transfer does not change the nature of his commitment and he has been committed as a person found to be insane under an Indiana statute designed for the use in instances in which person's insane had been charged with crimes and under the judgment of the Criminal Court of Marion County, he cannot be released until he has recovered his sanity.

Byron R. White:

Now, I have to subordinate questions here.

When you use the word insane in the context of that statute, if what it means or I am asking does it mean that he is incompetent to stand trial?

Frank E. Spencer:

Well, under the statute and I dispute the position of the Indiana Court in this regard.

The statute speaks in terms of insanity, the determinative principle as to whether or not he will be committed on the one hand or held to trial on the other, and go to trial is the determination of his comprehension or lack of comprehension to understand the nature of the proceedings and to assist his counsel in defense.