Milton v. Wainwright

RESPONDENT: Wainwright
LOCATION: Christian County, Kentucky

DOCKET NO.: 70-5012
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 407 US 371 (1972)
ARGUED: Jan 12, 1972
DECIDED: Jun 22, 1972

J. Robert Olian - for respondent pro hac vice, by special leave of Court
Neal P. Rutledge - for petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Milton v. Wainwright

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 12, 1972 in Milton v. Wainwright

Warren E. Burger:

First this morning in Number 70-5012, Milton against Wainwright.

Mr. Rutledge, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Neil P. Rutledge:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case is on review of a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit which affirmed a denial of a writ of habeas corpus which was challenging a conviction of first-degree murder in the State Courts of Florida.

The first-degree murder conviction occurred in 1958 and became final, that is in the sense, that the appeal procedures were completed and the time expired for petition of certiorari in this Court in 1960 after, I mention that fact because this is after of course the decision of this Court in Spano versus New York, a 1959 decision which occurred after the conviction of the Trial Court before that conviction became final.

The facts involving the alleged crime itself are fairly simple.

The petitioner in this case, the defendant in the State Trial Court was a black man from Mississippi.

He had completed less than six years of schooling in the Mississippi Schools.

He was age 23 at the time of his conviction.

He was working as a porter in a Miami Beach Hotel and he was living in the black ghetto section of Miami with his common-law-wife who was at that time pregnant.

On the evening of May 31, after he got off work, he purchased a cheap used car for approximately a $100.00 and then that evening he took his wife out for a joy ride which ran through the evening and apparently there was some drinking during the course of that evening in the ride in the new car.

In the early morning hours of June 1, that is about 2 or 3 a.m., he ran the car into the Miami River and his wife was drowned.

The petitioner himself barely escaped with his life.

He was fished out of the Miami River by a boat captain and he was incoherent and he injured.

He was prostrate on the bank of the river when the police came and the police took him to the Dade County Hospital where he was admitted to the colored section, the hospital at that time being segregated, and he was held there overnight and then the next day, he was taken to the city jail.

No charge was made against him and he was placed in the city jail in a cell 3 feet or 4 feet x 6 feet in dimensions with no windows and with a solid door.

There was electric light in the cell which at times would be turned on and other times he would be in complete darkness and he was held incommunicado in that box of the cell for 16 days.

During that time, he was taken out from time to time for interrogation.

He was put in that cell on June 2.

On June 3, he was taken out early in the morning about 6 a.m. and was taken by a detective to a room where a Medical Doctor, a Psychiatrist and a Ph. D. Psychologist administered truth serum to him, shoot in the arm with a truth serum, he was then questioned.

Of course he had no lawyer, he had no friends, and he was not allowed to make any telephone calls.

He asked to call his wife’s family, but he was not allowed to communicate in any way with the outside world.

After the session with the doctors and under the truth serum he was then the next day taken out and hooked up the wires to use his words and administered a polygraph test.

And then the day following that, he was again questioned at which time an alleged consent to search his rooming his quarters were extracted from him and pursuant to that alleged consent, the detectives and the medical examiner of the county searched his quarters.

He was questioned again at various times, he says almost daily, for long periods, up until June 11, at which time he was taken from his cell at about 5 p.m., and was not returned to the cell until about 1 a.m. the following morning and during that time from 5 p.m. of June 11 until the early morning hours of June 12, two confessions were extracted from him.

He claims and the evidence, of course he is in dispute on this, he claims that he was subjected to threats and coercion that the detectives threatened to take him for a ride out in the country and so forth at that time and that he had no choice ultimately, but to agree to confess that he had driven into the river deliberately in order to murder his wife, the motive being to collect insurance on her life and it is true that he had an insurance policy.

Actually, it was a policy that covered both him and his wife.

It covered healthcare and it was an accidental death policy.

It is one of these policies that is commonly sold in the black ghetto where the collector comes around every week and it is very expensive insurance actually, but you pay your premiums in cash each week.

How long has (Inaudible)?