Kimmelman v. Morrison

LOCATION: Heath Residence

DOCKET NO.: 84-1661
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 477 US 365 (1986)
ARGUED: Mar 05, 1986
DECIDED: Jun 26, 1986

Allan J. Nodes - on behalf of the petitioner
William E. Staehle - on behalf of the respondent, appointed by this Court

Facts of the case


Media for Kimmelman v. Morrison

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 05, 1986 in Kimmelman v. Morrison

William E. Staehle:

We recognize at the outset that the best we can do in federal court is to win a new trial, as it were, a writ of habeas corpus as issued by the District Court conditioned upon the state's right to retry him.

What do you have to say about the trial judge's statement that he would have decided the case the same way without the evidence?

William E. Staehle:

I say, Your Honor, that that statement was never made by the trial judge.

Was it made in substance, or what did he say about it?

You tell me what he said about it.

William E. Staehle:

No, it was not even made in substance.

There was no such finding.

He said the following.

At the conclusion of the case, he said that this case is not cut and dry, and he went on to give--

Tell us precisely, if you are going to tell us, give it verbatim.

William E. Staehle:


"Cut and dry".

"Not cut and dry" are his verbatim words.

What else?

William E. Staehle:

And then he went on to give, and this is a verbatim word, "some" of his observations, and he began to discuss the credibility of the witnesses, stopped and rendered his judgment.

On the motion for bail pending appeal, he indicated that the bed sheet and the consequent tests were, and these are his words, "obviously important", and then he went on to say,

"but it is one small part of the whole case."

And in denying the motion for bail pending appeal, he was not determining a Sixth Amendment question, which was in fact being raised on appeal.

He was not determining whether or not defense counsel was effective.

The trial judge was simply determining whether he was in his rights in denying defense counsel's belated request to suppress the evidence, and clearly under New Jersey's procedural rules he was within his rights, and he was so bound to be within his rights by the appellate court.

Later, Mr. Chief Justice, on a motion for post-conviction relief, wherein it was determined that there were no issues to decide because the Sixth Amendment and Fourth Amendment claims have been in effect decided by the intermediate appellate court.

A statement was made in the presence of the trial judge that the bed sheet evidence, as I refer to it, was a major point.

And I submit that the trial judge's failure to make any comment at that point is further evidence, although not the greatest evidence, further evidence of his failing to find that it was cumulative, and cumulative is the key word.

We would expect the trial judge to use the word cumulative if in fact that was his feeling, and at no time was that word ever used.

So, I urge the Court at the outset to put aside the notion implicit in the state's argument that this is somehow a guilty man looking to get off on a technicality.

He is innocent by definition, and probably innocent in fact.

You say innocent in fact.

Are you saying there was something wrong with the bed sheet evidence introduced against him other than the fact that it was wrongfully seized?

William E. Staehle:


In a sense I am, Justice Rehnquist.