Phyle v. Duffy
334 U.S. 431 (1948)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Phyle v. Duffy, 334 U.S. 431 (1948)

Phyle v. Duffy

No. 655

Argued April 20-21, 1948

Decided June 7, 1948

334 U.S. 431

Syllabus

Petitioner was convicted of murder, sentenced to death, and imprisoned pending execution. In compliance with a California statute forbidding the execution of an insane person and prescribing a procedure for obtaining a judicial determination of a prisoner's sanity (to be initiated by the warden if "there is good reason to believe" that he has become insane), petitioner was adjudged insane and taken to a state hospital. Thereafter, without notice or hearing, the medical superintendent of the hospital certified that petitioner's reason had been restored, and he was returned to prison and a new date was set for his execution. He instituted a habeas corpus proceeding in the State Supreme Court, but that court denied relief.

Held: since the judgment denying habeas corpus may rest on the adequate nonfederal ground that petitioner had pursued the wrong state remedy, it is not appropriate for this Court at this time to pass on the federal constitutional questions presented. Pp. 334 U. S. 432-444.

(a) It appears that there is a state remedy by mandamus available to petitioner under which he can invoke judicial action to

Page 334 U. S. 432

compel the warden to again initiate judicial proceedings to determine petitioner's sanity, and that, in such mandamus proceeding, the court will hear and consider evidence to determine whether there is "reason to believe" that petitioner is insane. Pp. 334 U. S. 440-442.

(b) Nobles v. Georgia,168 U. S. 398, distinguished. Pp. 334 U. S. 437-439.

(c) A declaration by the Attorney General of California that petitioner has not availed himself of the appropriate state remedy is entitled to great weight in the absence of controlling state statutes and court decisions. P. 334 U. S. 441.

(d) Although mandamus might not be available under California law if there were another remedy, so far as here appears, and in the light of the decision of the State Supreme Court, mandamus to compel action by the warden is the only remedy available to the petitioner. P. 334 U. S. 442.

(e) This Court cannot say at this time that the remedy by mandamus available to petitioner under California law will be less than a substantial equivalent of one whereby he could apply directly to a court for a full hearing. Pp. 334 U. S. 442-444.

30 Cal.2d 838, 186 P.2d 134, certiorari dismissed.

In a habeas corpus proceeding instituted by petitioner in the Supreme Court of California, that court denied relief. 30 Cal.2d 838, 186 P.2d 134. This Court granted certiorari. 333 U.S. 841. Certiorari dismissed, p. 334 U. S. 444.

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