Relford v. Commandant, U. S. Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth

PETITIONER: Isiah Relford
RESPONDENT: Commandant, U. S. Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth
LOCATION: Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania

DOCKET NO.: 98
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 401 US 355 (1971)
ARGUED: Dec 15, 1970 / Dec 16, 1970
DECIDED: Feb 24, 1971

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Relford v. Commandant, U. S. Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 15, 1970 in Relford v. Commandant, U. S. Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 16, 1970 in Relford v. Commandant, U. S. Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth

Warren E. Burger:

-- continue Detrick or do you wish to reserve for rebuttal?

Judson W. Detrick:

Yes, Your Honor I wish to continue at this time.

Warren E. Burger:

Very well.

Judson W. Detrick:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

The second question raised by this Court’s grant on the writ of certiorari was the question of the retroactivity of O’Callahan v. Parker and it's our submission that O’Callahan v. Parker is precisely the kind of case that should be given full retroactive application so as to apply to petitioner’s conviction even though it became final within the military appellate system some six years prior to this Court’s decision O’Callahan v. Parker.

The Court has laid down a series of three criteria for determining the question of retroactivity significantly in Linkletter v. Walker and Stovall v. Deno.

Those three criteria are the purposes of the decision in question the reliance by law enforcement authorities on this standard existing prior to the substantive decision and the impact on the administration of justice of the retroactive application.

Now, in the context of these three criteria the court has often stated that the crucial question is whether the proscribed activity infects the integrity of the fact-finding process.

I would submit that the very heart of the court martial system is in question in O’Callahan and that was its power to act.

I think that the integrity of the process by which O’Callahan and petitioner were convicted is no less impugned by his conviction for a crime that the court had no power to try and convict him for then for his conviction for a crime he did not commit at all.

In both cases, the defect in his conviction goes to the very center of the legal -- of its legal justification.

Now I think the court’s emphasis on the integrity of the fact-finding process is merely and often articulated aspect of its general concern that any conviction be the product of a fundamentally fair proceeding.

I do not think that the court necessarily only means, it's very important that they are protecting against the risk of the conviction of the innocent.

Now I would cite the Court to its case in the Witherspoon v. Illinois where the Court refused to find that the jury selection standards in that case which excluded the jurors who were opposed to capital punishment from the jury.

The Court refused to find that that’s substantially increased the risk of conviction and yet the court -- conviction of the innocent and yet the court went on to find that the integrity of the fact-finding process by which that accused was convicted was necessarily undermined by that process.

And the court went on to give Witherspoon v. Illinois full retroactive application despite any considerations of reliance by law enforcement authorities or the impact on the administration of justice.

Well, if you prevail on the merits, your retroactivity point is stronger than that, isn’t it? It was tried by tribunal where there’s no business trying it.

Judson W. Detrick:

Yes, Your Honor and I think that is absolutely correct.

Now the respondent --

That is if you prevail?

Judson W. Detrick:

That is correct.

Respondent submits that the case should be given partial retroactive application only and that it should not apply to convictions that became final within the military appellate system prior to this Court’s decision in O’Callahan which was June 2 of 1969.

In part, their position is based upon this Court’s decision in DeStefano v. Woods.

In DeStefano, the Court found that the cases of Duncan v. Louisiana and Bloom v. Illinois, which imposed the jury trial requirements on the States should not be given retroactive application -- general retroactive application.

Now respondent maintains that the same reasoning applies in this case as applied in that case I submit that is not so.

First of all, the Constitutional provision involved in this case, respondent would be saying the Sixth Amendment should not be determinative of the question.

In each case the peculiarities of the decision and substantive decision should be looked at closely.

Now I feel further more that O’Callahan does involve more than DeStefano involve and that O’Callahan involves a determination that the Court has no subject matter jurisdiction.

So it was not the case in DeStefano v. Woods.

Such a determination necessarily as I’ve already pointed out goes to the very heart of the court martial process itself and does infect the integrity of fact-finding process.