Lynumn v. Illinois

LOCATION: South Carolina State House

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 372 US 528 (1963)
ARGUED: Feb 19, 1963
DECIDED: Mar 25, 1963

Facts of the case

In this case study, Miss Lynumn, a petitioner, was convicted of the illegal sale and possession of marijuana. She was given a verdict in an Illinois State Court and was sentenced to imprisonment (for no less than ten and no more than eleven years). Lynumn’s oral confession was obtained after the threats of the police officers.

They warned that if she did not want to cooperate with them, she could be eventually deprived of state financial aid for her kids and that they would be taken away from her. They told her that she will never see them again. In other words, her confession was pressured. Such an admission of evidence clearly contradicts the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Based on the statement of the court that such actions of the government officials were necessary for their judgment, it would be unfair to suggest that Miss Lynumn did not manage to assert or preserve the claim at her trial in a proper way. What is more, her conviction was released on the independent and adequate state ground.

It would also be unfair to mention that the conviction of Miss Lynumn could not rest in any part of her statement since the records clearly demonstrate that everything she has said served as evidence. Her claims were analyzed later during the trial, and they were analyzed by the appellate courts. It is also incorrect to suggest that admission of the coerced confession of Miss Lynumn was a mistake even if the other facts were appropriate to guarantee her conviction. As a result, Jewel Lafontant decided to argue the cause and consequently filed a case brief for Lynumn. William C. Wines.


Media for Lynumn v. Illinois

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 19, 1963 in Lynumn v. Illinois

Earl Warren:

Number 9, Lynumn versus Illinois.

Mrs. Lafontant.

May it please the Court.

Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Court.

The petitioner herein was tried and convicted for the unlawful sale and possession of narcotics.

And her convictions affirmed by the Illinois Supreme Court.

She sought certiorari on the ground that the confession obtained from her by threats and promises was used against her in her trial in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

This Court granted certiorari upon receipt from the Illinois Supreme Court of a certificate that decision of the federal claim refer to in the order of the United States Supreme Court was necessary, was necessary to the judgment rendered by the Illinois Supreme Court.

The people's testimony reveals that on January 17th, 1959, an informer, one Zeno, who had been previously convicted of the unlawful sale of narcotics, was again in the custody of Illinois officials for again violating the narcotic laws.

He agreed with his arresting officers upon promises of leniency by the said officers to set up an undisclosed third party for the crime of the sale of narcotics, wanting to keep from going to the penitentiary if he possibly could, as will appear on page 21 of the record, this informer took the arresting police officers Bryson's, Sims and Kobar to the apartment building where petitioner resided.

Alone, he gained admittance to the apartment.

Inside that apartment, there were three people present, namely the petitioner, the informer Zeno, and a visitor.

Zeno was out of the presence or sight of the police officers from 10 to 15 minutes.

He later emerged from the doorway leading to the apartment, rejoined the arresting officers and handed them a package which contained marijuana.

He told them that the petitioner had given it to him, had sold it to him.

It is uncontroverted that the arresting officers were not present at the time of the alleged sale, and that they relied upon the word of Zeno that the petitioner sold the narcotics to him.

Followed by the police officers, Zeno returned to the petitioner's apartment and then she opened the door, she was arrested.

She was grabbed by both her hands and she was told by Officer Sims that she had unlawfully sold narcotics to Zeno.

She was then taken back into her apartment, to the bedroom, if you please, flanked by two police officers.

In her own behalf, she protested for innocence.

Now, while in that bedroom, Officer Sims had adroitly inquired whether petitioner had any children, noticing ad bringing up the fact that there was children's clothing in the bedroom.

He also inquired quite adroitly about her subsistence.

And he found out that she had two little children ages 3 and 4 that she was receiving state funds in order to help support those children, state funds from what is called Aid to Dependent Children in Illinois or ADC.

And then he said at page 35 of the record, “If we take you into the station and charge you with the offense, the ADC would be probably be cut off and you will probably lose custody of your children.”

He also said that during that same conversation, he promised to recommend leniency to the state if the petitioner would cooperate.

Then and only then, the petitioners said “Yes, I did sell it to him”.

This confession of a guilt of the petitioner brought out by Illinois on direct examination of his own witness, we submit was timely objected to on the basis of having -- the confession having been induced by promises of immunity at the trial level.

And the objection was preserved by a later motion to strike.

And the statement was also made at that time that the objection was made because the confession was made under promises of leniency.

Byron R. White: