Ashcraft v. Tennessee
322 U.S. 143 (1944)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ashcraft v. Tennessee, 322 U.S. 143 (1944)

Ashcraft v. Tennessee

No. 391

Argued February 28, 1944

Decided May 1, 1944

322 U.S. 143

Syllabus

1. Upon review here of a conviction of a defendant in a criminal case in a state court, it is the duty of this Court to make an independent examination of the defendant's claim that his conviction, alleged to have been obtained through the use in evidence of confessions coerced by law enforcement officers, was in violation of his rights under the Federal Constitution. P. 322 U. S. 147.

2. An independent examination by this Court of the defendant's claim in such a case cannot be foreclosed by the finding of the state court, or the verdict of a jury, or both. P. 322 U. S. 148.

3. The treatment of the alleged confessions by the two state courts, and the trial court's instructions to the jury in respect of the alleged confessions, make more important in this case an independent examination by this Court of the defendants' claims. P. 322 U. S. 147.

4. Upon undisputed evidence, this Court concludes that, if the defendant Ashcraft made a confession, it was not voluntary, but compelled, and that his conviction, resting upon the alleged confession, must be set aside as in violation of the Federal Constitution. P. 322 U. S. 153.

The uncontradicted evidence -- inter alia, that Ashcraft had been held incommunicado for thirty-six hours, during which time without

Page 322 U. S. 144

sleep or rest, he had been interrogated by relay of officers and investigator -- showed a situation inherently coercive.

5. In making such disposition of cases as justice may require, this Court must consider any change, in fact, or in law, which has supervened since the judgment was entered. P. 322 U. S. 156.

6. The connection of a codefendant having been sustained by the state court upon the assumption that Ashcraft's confession was properly admitted and his conviction valid, the judgment as to the codefendant is vacated and the case remanded for further proceedings. P. 322 U. S. 155.

Reversed.

CERTIORARI, 320 U.S. 728, to review the affirmance of convictions of two defendants tried jointly in the state court.

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