Newsom v. Smyth

LOCATION: District Court of Massachusetts

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 365 US 604 (1961)
ARGUED: Jan 16, 1961 / Jan 17, 1961
DECIDED: Mar 27, 1961

Facts of the case


Media for Newsom v. Smyth

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 17, 1961 in Newsom v. Smyth

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 16, 1961 in Newsom v. Smyth

Earl Warren:

Number 116, Stuart W. Newsom, Petitioner, versus W. Frank Smyth, Jr., Superintendent of Virginia State Penitentiary.

Mr. Boothe, you may proceed with your argument.

Armistead L. Boothe:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

The issue in this case is extremely simple and the facts themselves are -- or should be very brief.

It involves the question of whether or not a convicted felon is entitled under the Fourteenth Amendment to counsel on appeal.

It counts the felon also being an indigent and being a man who has been tried for capital offense, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The facts are that on April 10, 1953, Stuart Newsom was tried in the Hustings Court in the City of Richmond, was convicted before a jury and was sentenced.

Eight days later, he wrote to the trial judge noting an appeal and saying that he propose to get counsel.

Five days after that, on April 23, 1953 or 13 days after his conviction, he then wrote the judge and said that due to circumstances beyond his control, he could not get counsel and asked the Court to appoint an attorney for him.

He --

William O. Douglas:

He was -- he was tried with -- with his own counsel?

Armistead L. Boothe:

Yes, sir.

As a matter of fact, he was tried with his own counsel and the counsel whom he himself has selected.

That counsel stayed in the case until the conclusion of the trial when he made a motion to set aside the verdict and for a new trial, which was denied.

Thereafter, he was not in the case and from then on, he did not have counsel in this proceeding.

Actually, no appeal was ever taken from that conviction.

He did not hear from the Court and no appeal was -- was had.

On January 12, 1959, that is nearly six years later, he filed his petition for habeas corpus and asked the Court to grant his petition under section -- under the Fourteenth Amendment, Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause.

John M. Harlan II:

Was that a federal habeas corpus petition?

Armistead L. Boothe:

Yes, sir.

Actually, what he did was -- no, it was not federal habeas corpus.

He went into the Law and Equity Court of the City of Richmond and Judge Young heard his habeas corpus petition and in a very well-reasoned opinion, which is in the record ending at page 27, he denied I say a well-reasoned opinion as a magnificent opinion up to the last paragraph.

And you would think that up to that time, he was going to decide the case in favor of the petitioner.

Then from that decision, the petitioner appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia, Judge Young's decision and memorandum were offered and dense the petitioner the petition for certiorari to this Court.

Felix Frankfurter:

Mr. Boothe, may I govern you to go back a minute?

Armistead L. Boothe:

Yes, sir.

Felix Frankfurter:

You said from the original conviction, which was in 1953 --

Armistead L. Boothe:

1953, yes, sir.

Felix Frankfurter:

From the original conviction, there was no appeal.

Armistead L. Boothe:

There was no appeal.