Murel v. Baltimore City Criminal Court

PETITIONER: Albert Delanor Murel, et al.
RESPONDENT: Baltimore City Criminal Court, et al.
LOCATION: Patuxent Institution

DOCKET NO.: 70-5276
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 407 US 355 (1972)
ARGUED: Mar 28, 1972 / Mar 29, 1972
DECIDED: Jun 19, 1972

Andrew E. Greenwald -
Francis B. Burch -
Henry R. Lord - for the respondents
Karl G. Feissner - for the petitioners

Facts of the case

Maryland trial courts convicted Albert Murel and the other petitioners of various crimes and sentenced them to fixed terms of imprisonment. The petitioners were “defective delinquents,” so each was committed to the Patuxent Institution, a mental health facility, pursuant to the Maryland Defective Delinquency Law.

The petitioners sought a federal habeas corpus in district court. They challenged the conditions of their confinement and the procedures that led to their commitment. They also argued that Maryland's statutory standard for the commitment of "delinquent defendants" was unconstitutionally vague. The district court denied relief. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the lower court's opinion. The petitioners appealed to the Supreme Court.


Did the Maryland Defective Delinquency Law violate the constitutional rights of prisoners who were committed to a mental health facility?

Media for Murel v. Baltimore City Criminal Court

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 29, 1972 in Murel v. Baltimore City Criminal Court

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 28, 1972 in Murel v. Baltimore City Criminal Court

Warren E. Burger:

Let us hear arguments next in Murel and others against Baltimore City Criminal Court.

Mr. Feissner, you may proceed when you're ready.

Karl G. Feissner:

Mr. Chief Justice and may I please the court.

The petitioner will reserve 10 minutes for rebuttal if we may.

Your Honor, 0047 era was committed in the court below when the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Maryland's Defective Delinquency Law in its Patuxent Institution in meaning and application.

If I may, I would first invite Your Honor’s attention to Page 7 A of our brief in the rear, which sets forth the definition of a defective delinquent.

As can be observed, a defective delinquent or one who is claimed to be a defective delinquent requires a new finding of fact in our State Courts of four critical elements.

Firstly, that the individual has persistent aggravated anti-social or criminal behavior.

Secondly, that he has a propensity towards this criminal activity.

Thirdly, that he is found to have intellectual deficiency or emotional imbalance.

And fourthly, that he demonstrates and actual danger to society.

This particular definition Your Honors is triggered by the provisions of Paragraph 6-D of the Act which are on the very next page.

A request for an examination of a supposed defective delinquent is initiated with a request from almost any persons wherein it would state the individual suspects or supposes that the individual might have defective delinquency.

Now, we suggest firstly in our first position that the legislative food for thought of supposition or suspected that someone has a particular condition would give one constitutional indigestion.

We bring that to the courts attention for this reason.

First of all, the Lower Court has relied in our – nor the Attorney General has relied on this courts earlier decision in Minnesota EX REL Pearson v. Probate Court.

We think that that reliance is roughly misplaced for these three reasons.

Number one, the Minnesota statute which was reported to this court and the court only considered the matter on the basis of so to speak a demur at that time.

There was no procedural hearing such as we have in this case.

The statute in Minnesota Your Honor has required three things before you could indicate or begin this sexual psychopath statute as what they call it in Minnesota.

Number one, that the facts must first be submitted to the County Attorney.

Secondly, that he must make a finding of good cause.

And thirdly, that he then prepares a petition to be executed by a person having knowledge of the facts.

Now, Your Honors, on the basis of that construed and limited by the Minnesota Court held at Minnesota EX REL Pearson v. Probate Court was constitutional and we set that next to the Maryland Defective Delinquency Act which merely says that a request for examination maybe filed by anyone who suspects or supposes.

In this regard, it is enlightening to examine very briefly the Attorney General of California has seen fit to file a brief amicus curiae and we noted with interest in the back of his brief in the appendix section where he referred to the particular California Law and that law says, “If it appears to the Court—”

Warren E. Burger:

What page are you on?

Karl G. Feissner:

Page 1 in his appendix in the back.

Warren E. Burger:

1 in the appendix?

Karl G. Feissner:

Yes sir.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank You.