Monks v. New Jersey

LOCATION: Cook County Circuit Court, Criminal Division

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1969-1970)

CITATION: 398 US 71 (1970)
ARGUED: Feb 26, 1970
DECIDED: May 25, 1970

Facts of the case


Media for Monks v. New Jersey

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 26, 1970 in Monks v. New Jersey

Warren E. Burger:

Next case is number 127, Monks against New Jersey.

Mr. Amsterdam, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Anthony G. Armsterdam:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

The principal question presented in this case is one that is entirely familiar to the Court.

It is the question which this Court has wrestled with frequently, for better than 35 years, whether in a state criminal proceeding or in this instance a juvenile delinquency proceeding resulting in a sentence of life imprisonment, a defendant's confession was inadmissible in evidence because involuntarily obtained by the police.

This case arises prior to the cutoff date of Escobedo and of Miranda.

You make no Miranda argument, do you?

Anthony G. Armsterdam:

There is no Miranda argument Mr. Justice Harlan at all in this case.

Thank you.

Anthony G. Armsterdam:

The issue of admissibility of the confession is entirely the traditional one of voluntariness and for that reason it turns on all of the factual circumstances of the case.

It is for that reason that in our brief I have tried you set forth in all of the detail that the Court might wish, the exact factual circumstances under which the confession was obtained.

As I understand the state's position, in its brief, it initially asserts that it agrees with all of petitioner's factual statements.

However, in the argument portion of its brief, it does make certain factual assertions with which we are in disagreement.

There are half dozen of those and I mean to advert to them specifically in my presentation because I think the most important aspect of this case is the facts.

We begin with what is clearly a major factor in the case and that is the petitioner's age.

At the time of his detention, interrogation and confession, he was a 15-year old, to be exact, 15 years and four months old.

The state of course does not contest that, but it does make three factual assertions in that regard which I wish to bring to the Court's attention.

First, it characterizes the petitioner as above average, and indicates that he had an intelligence beyond his mere age.

The state sights nothing in the record for either these propositions.

The Court will find nothing in the record to support either of these propositions and as I take it, it is an inference of the respondent to run from nothing other than the fact that the petitioner managed the hold out for a goodly time under sustained police questioning.

The second factual matter raised by the state in connection with the petitioner's individual characteristics is that he was as the state puts it, court wise or already placed in its brief a hardened juvenile criminal.

Again, the record shows no such thing.

The facts in this regard are set forth in our brief at page 46 in the footnote 59.

The trial record here shows only that the petitioner previous to this detention and interrogation had been a probationer of the juvenile Court.

It does not show what caused him to be a probationer of juvenile Court and it does not show what context, if any, he had had with the police incident to becoming a probationer for juvenile Court.

There are however psychiatric reports in this record, one of which we advert to in that footnote which shows that as of a time three months prior to his detention, the only run ins that he had had with the police were a minor pilfering incidents, stealing flashlight and jacket from a car, a broken window incident and some misconduct at school.

In reviewing the record for this argument, I notice that I omitted from that footnote that the same diagnostic report also indicates a charge of waywardness, whatever that may be, some time prior to 1953 when he would have been 11 or 12.

Again, no indication is to whether he had dealings with the police in that connection and for the sake of completeness, I simply want to bring to the Court's attention that there's another psychiatric report made later after his present juvenile commitment in which under Sodium Amatol interviews and a Methedrine interview at the state diagnostic center.

The petitioner also adverted to two additional contacts with the police, however, this came out under Amatol.

It is quite unclear what these contacts were and there is no objective verification of this Amatol material.