Whitney v. Florida

LOCATION: Street Corner

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 389 US 138 (1967)
ARGUED: Oct 19, 1967
DECIDED: Nov 13, 1967

Facts of the case


Media for Whitney v. Florida

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 19, 1967 in Whitney v. Florida

Richard Kanner:

-- whether it is feasible for this Court to accept standard by which the effectiveness and duty of a Court appointed trial counsel can be measured.

Secondly whether a Court appointed trial counsel has a duty to abide by his client's instructions during the pretrial proceedings of the case.

And lastly whether when this Court held it was inherently invalid to hold a murder trial in a community exposed to the defendants televised confessions, did this Court mean inherently invalid or mean inherently invalid sometimes.

I feel that the facts in this case are decisive to all of the issues which I am attempting to raise and I will discuss them at some length.

I expect also to discuss the need for an adequate standard to measure the effectiveness and duty of Court appointed trial counsel.

I also expect to discuss some suggested standards with particular emphasis on the American Bar Association's minimum standards for criminal justice and lastly of course to discuss the existing precedent as it applies to this case.

As to the facts, the defendant at the time of his arrest was 17 years old, he is white, of average to above average in intelligence.

He has a tenth grade education.

He and his family at the time of his arrest resided in California, so that when he was apprehended near West Palm Beach, he was out without of either a counsel or family.

Abe Fortas:

Excuse me sir, did you say you were or were not going to discuss point 1C in your brief that psychiatric witness' point.

Richard Kanner:

Yes sir Your Honor I expect to discuss that on to the topic of the test in determining the adequacy of trial counsel.

Abe Fortas:

Because that's the only importance here attached to the point in this case.

Richard Kanner:

I feel that the failure to present such testimony Your Honor is one of the indications to show that trial counsel completely abandoned all defenses that were applicable so far as the question of mercy was concerned Mr. Justice.

The defendant at the time of his arrest immediately confessed to an additional seven homicides all committed in the perpetration of robbery.

All of these homicides were committed within the period of 30 days; one in California, three I believe in Arizona and four in Florida.

The four that were in committed in South Florida were all committed within that past week.

The defendant as I say was apprehended in West Palm Beach and immediately the next day on March 6th of 1960 he was taken to Miami where he again repeated these confessions to these eight separate homicides, this time Your Honors in the presence of television cameras, radio microphones and of course the news media.

The defendant was returned to West Palm Beach in May where he was convicted and given a recommendation of mercy which in Florida is automatically means life.


Richard Kanner:

Yes sir, Your Honor.

So far as the rule one, the post collateral attack petition is concerned Your Honor, we'll strike that.

It does not say live or taped.


Richard Kanner:

Your Honor I have only examined the record I don't know, other than what the Rule 1 -- what I've alleged in the Rule 1 petition.

The defendant was returned to Miami in May and counsel were appointed for him.

Counsel made a motion for the appointment of the psychiatrist to determine his competency.

Two were appointed and three examined the defendant.

The defendant was found competent by all of the three psychiatrists and competent to stand trial and know right from wrong.

Their opinions ran the range that he was suffering from a mere personality disorder to the fact that he had a severe psychosis, that is almost out of touch with reality, although still able to know right from wrong.

The psychiatrist who had not been formally appointed two weeks before his trial filed his report and this psychiatrist said I can state unequivocally that without further advances in the psychiatric field this boy will a menace to society as long as he may live.