Smith v. Mississippi

RESPONDENT: Mississippi
LOCATION: Beaumont Mills

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 373 US 238 (1963)
ARGUED: Apr 30, 1963
DECIDED: May 13, 1963

Facts of the case


Media for Smith v. Mississippi

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 30, 1963 in Smith v. Mississippi

Earl Warren:

William Smith Jr., Petitioner, versus Mississippi.

Mr. Abram.

Morris B. Abram:

Mr. Chief Justice and members of the Court.

This case which comes to the Court on a writ to certiorari to the Supreme Court of Mississippi presents three questions.

The first is the right of counsel -- to counsel of a 25 year old Negro, arrested and convicted of rape and given a capital sentence in the State of Mississippi on and in the County of Madison.

This Negro, being a functional illiterate being -- having -- had only a second grade education, having been arrested on July the 30th, 1961 and not having counsel assigned to him for either 52 or 53 days while he was detained in solitary detention.

Having had no counsel at his confession, having had no counsel at his preliminary hearing, and having counsel assigned to him on his arraignment on the 21st of September.

Earl Warren:

There was no preliminary hearing, was there?

Morris B. Abram:

Yes sir I'm --

Earl Warren:

There was?

Morris B. Abram:

The record Your Honor is silent on that point.

Mississippi Law requires it and I think it is conceded by all that he did have one on August the 3rd --

Potter Stewart:

I see.

Morris B. Abram:

-- but it is not in the record.

You will understand Mr. Justice Stewart that this record is somewhat fragmentary in view of the fact that we are claiming that he had ineffective counsel.

And of course the record I think reflects this.

But in any event, he did have counsel appointed on the 21st when on the 22nd, the venire was drawn, his counsel announced that he was ready for trial on the 25th.

Now, the 22nd would’ve been a Friday.

Saturday and Sunday would’ve intervened and he proposed and agreed to go to trial on the 25th the following Monday.

So, the first question that we present to the Court is the right of counsel and the effectiveness of counsel is the second question.

The third question is another due process question which deals with the admissibility of a confession in this case and the fruits of the confession consisting of three items or physical exhibits which are important to the prosecution in the case.

And we finally submit that this confession was submitted by the Court to the jury under an incorrect constitutional instruction.

Now with respect to the facts of this case, may it please the Court, this defendant was arrested on the night of September or rather July the 30th, 1961 when apparently he was sleeping in his home in the sawmill quarters of a sawmill village in Mississippi.

Some time that night between the hours of 12 and 2 in the morning, this 14 year old white girl had been raped at a time when she had immediately before had been seated in an automobile with her 17 year old white companion.

The story that she told is that a Negro came up and put a knife in the window and around the neck of her companion who was seated on the right hand side of the car, she being on the left hand side of the front sit.

And after an attempt to rob and after taking away the knife and the watch and wallet of her boyfriend, he had them drive a short distance and then had to get out of the car and had her submit to a rape with a boy lying on the ground, her friend lying on the ground beside but afraid to move or afraid to offer any resistance because of the fact that the accused had a knife.

In any event, this occurred between the hours of 12 and 2 on the 30th of July.

Now, from the record it appears that the sole reason for the arrest of this defendant was because a police dog which was taken to the scene of the alleged crime picked up a scent and headed in the direction of the sawmill quarters.

Despite what the State of Mississippi says in its brief, that’s all of the evidence that points to the probable cause for the arrest of this defendant.

Not --