Specht v. Patterson

LOCATION: Multnomah County Circuit Court

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 386 US 605 (1967)
ARGUED: Mar 21, 1967
DECIDED: Apr 11, 1967

Facts of the case


Media for Specht v. Patterson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 21, 1967 in Specht v. Patterson

Earl Warren:

Number 831, Francis Eddie Specht, Petitioner, versus Wayne T. Patterson, Warden, et al.

Mr. Williams, you may proceed with your argument.

Michael A. Williams:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

Francis Eddie Specht was convicted in Colorado in 1959 of the crime of indecent liberties and the statute prescribes the punishment of 10 years for that crime.

He was not sentenced under that statute.

He was sentenced under the Sex Offender statute to the only sentence allowed by that statute, an indeterminate sentence of one day to life.

That statute allows a trial judge to sentence people convicted of the crime of indecent liberties and other crimes.

If they fit into a certain classification, the class is a threat to the public if at large or an habitual offender and mentally ill.

The issue which Francis Eddie Specht presents to this Court is whether he is entitled to participate by reason of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In the process by which the trial judges reaches the conclusion that he is in the class eligible for a different sentence, under the Sex Offender statute that is whether he is a threat to the public if at large or an habitual offender and mentally ill.

Just a word about the statute, there are certain enumerated offenses, indecent liberties, incest, they're all sex offenses.

The statute says that if a person is convicted of one of those offenses then the district judge, and this is in Section 1 of the statutes in the appendix of the brief, if he has of the -- opinion that such a person is a threat to the public if at large or an habitual offender and mentally ill, may in lieu of the sentence provided by the statute defining the crime sentence him under the Sex Offender statute.

The Act goes on then to require that the judge have the person psychiatrically examined.

It allows him to incarcerate him for a period of time after conviction necessary to have the psychiatric examination conducted --

Potter Stewart:

I think I misunderstood then.

First of all, it has to be a conviction of one of the speci --enumerated specified offenses --

Michael A. Williams:

That's correct, Your Honor.

Potter Stewart:

-- that were all some kind of sex offense that vary.

Michael A. Williams:

Yes, Your Honor.

Potter Stewart:

Then the trial judge has discretion.

He --

Michael A. Williams:


Potter Stewart:

He can -- he could in this case and he can under the laws if we go ahead and sentence him to whatever sentence the law says shall be -- may be imposed for each one --

Michael A. Williams:

To this case?

Potter Stewart:

-- for each specified offenses.

Michael A. Williams:

Yes, Your Honor.

Potter Stewart:

But if he'd -- and he has the discretion do that.

But otherwise, he doesn't want to do that, what does he do?

Does he then have the man examined by a psychiatrist?

Michael A. Williams: