Griffin v. Illinois - 351 U.S. 12 (1956)
U.S. Supreme Court
Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12 (1956)
Griffin v. Illinois
Argued December 7, 1955
Decided April 23, 1956
351 U.S. 12
Illinois law gives every person convicted in a criminal trial a right of review by writ of error; but a full direct appellate review can be had only by furnishing the appellate court with a bill of exceptions or report of the trial proceedings, certified by the trial judge, and it is sometimes impossible to prepare such documents without a stenographic transcript of the trial proceedings, which are furnished free only to indigent defendants sentenced to death. Convicted in an Illinois state court of armed robbery, petitioners moved in the trial court that a certified copy of the entire record, including a stenographic transcript of the proceedings, be furnished to them without cost. They alleged that they were without funds to pay for such documents, and that failure of the court to provide them would violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Their motion was denied. They then filed a petition under the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act, under which only questions arising under the State or Federal Constitution may be raised. They alleged that there were manifest nonconstitutional errors in the trial which entitled them to have their convictions set aside on appeal, that the only impediment to full appellate review was their lack of funds to buy a transcript, and that refusal to afford full appellate review solely because of their poverty was a denial of due process and equal protection. This petition was dismissed, and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, solely on the ground that the petition raised no substantial state or federal constitutional question.
Held: Petitioners' constitutional rights were violated, the judgment of the Illinois Supreme Court is vacated, and the cause is remanded to that Court for further action affording petitioners adequate and effective appellate review. Pp. 351 U. S. 13-26.
Judgment vacated, and cause remanded.