Phillips v. New York

LOCATION: Superior Court of Bibb County

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 362 US 456 (1960)
ARGUED: Apr 18, 1960
DECIDED: Apr 25, 1960

Facts of the case


Media for Phillips v. New York

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 18, 1960 in Phillips v. New York

Earl Warren:

Number 497, Willard H. Phillips, Petitioner, versus Joseph -- versus New York.

Mr. Schober.

Henry W. Schober:

If it please the Court.

This matter is here on certiorari issued by this Court to the Court of Appeals of the State of New York.

To review a judgment of affirmance entered by that Court, affirming a judgment of conviction entered in the County Court of Nassau County for the State of New York convicting the defendant of the felony murder of one Sunday Graham.

The question that we raised and upon which we are here is whether a confession obtained from the petitioner was secured in violation of due process as accorded to him and guaranteed to him under those provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In considering and approaching that question, we feel that we should bring before this Court those factual circumstances which are conceded by the respondent to have existed with regard to the development of the investigation and ultimate securing of the confession and which are undisputed in the record.

In approaching this problem and giving some of the background of the crime itself and of the investigation that was conducted, may I call attention first to the fact that the respondent Phillips, a male Negro of the -- of the age of approximately 42 years have had prior conflicts with the law.

He had been convicted on a prior occasion in this very country, the Country of Nassau of the crime of attempted rape by violence.

He was sentenced to imprisonment for that crime and having been released on parole, he was later again apprehended, charged with a violation of his parole for the commission of a sexual offense upon a young white girl.

And upon the charge for violation of parole in that instance, he was recommitted for a period of time.

The petitioner Phillips had sometime prior to the commission of the crime charged here been married to one Manita Graham (ph).

They had been divorced but they had continued an illicit relationship between them subsequent to time of their divorce.

Mrs. Graham had adopted Sunday Graham who was approximately eight years of age upon the time -- about the time of her unfortunate demise.

Now, on May 12, 1958, Sunday Graham was last seen leaving the school which she was attending.

She was dressed in a school uniform and was seen by one of her playmates to enter an automobile driven by a male Negro, a car of a type kind that was owned by Phillips and driven by one who is dressed in clothing such as that which had been possessed by Phillips at that time.

Once she did not -- when Sunday did not return to her home, Mrs. Graham, at about 5:30 in the evening of that day, made report to the police.

And she gave them the information concerning a prior marriage to the petitioner and stated also to the police that petitioner had followed her within a short period of time prior to the disappearance of Sunday and had expressed certain threats to it.

But Mrs. Graham had asked Phillips to get out of her life, and he stated to her in return that if he did get out of her life, he would not get out alone and that she would be sorry.

About 10:15 on the evening of the day of Sunday's disappearance, the local police precinct in the village of Hempstead, Nassau County communicated with the precinct of the country police that had jurisdiction over that location.

And at about 10:20 on that evening, the country police officers were given a description of a missing girl, the location of the school at which she had been attending and the other information such as I have just mentioned to this Court.

The following morning, the country police spoke to the classmate of Sunday who had seen her entering the automobile.

They obtained the information from that classmate, Kathy Mullen (ph) concerning the place at which the automobile was seen, the person driving and the fact that Sunday attended.

At 11 a.m. because of the information that had been obtained by the police concerning Phillips' background in relationship with Mrs. Graham and Sunday, visited Phillips' home in Hempstead, searched his rooms and took clothes from him that he had been wearing and that were in his apartment and also had him identified through them the automobile which he owned.

They questioned him concerning Sunday Graham and his -- and her disappearance and then requested that he accompany them, the police, to their local police precinct some distance away and beyond the place where police headquarters of the county are located.

They arrived at the local police precinct at about 1:15 in the afternoon of the day.

And at that time, the interrogation concerning this disappearance of Sunday Graham began.

You claimed that he was under arrest at this time or did he went over there voluntarily?

Henry W. Schober:

The record would seem to indicate that he accompanied them voluntarily, sir.

But we say that whether he was under arrest or whether he had gone voluntarily, that the fact of his going and the circumstances that took place from that point on are to be considered in connection with the ultimate determination to be made by this Court on the question that we say is presented here.