Williams v. Oklahoma - 358 U.S. 576 (1959)


U.S. Supreme Court

Williams v. Oklahoma, 358 U.S. 576 (1959)

Williams v. Oklahoma

No. 124

Argued January 21, 1959

Decided February 24, 1959

358 U.S. 576

Syllabus

While fleeing from police after robbing a filling station, petitioner forced his way at gunpoint into the automobile of one Cooke, forced him to drive far into the country, there shot and killed him, and escaped in his car. Charged in an Oklahoma court with murder, he entered a plea of guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Thereafter, he was charged in another Oklahoma court with the kidnaping involved in the same occurrence. While represented by counsel and after being warned by the court that conviction might result in a death sentence, he pleaded guilty and was convicted. Before sentencing him, the court permitted the State's Attorney to make an unsworn statement in which he recounted at length the armed robbery, the chase, the elusion of police, the gruesome details of the kidnaping and murder, and petitioner's past criminal record, and petitioner was sentenced to death on the kidnaping charge. Under Oklahoma law, kidnaping and murder are separate and distinct offenses, and petitioner made no claim prior to his conviction that he was being put twice in jeopardy for the same offense. Under Oklahoma law, the granting of a presentence hearing at which testimony is taken is discretionary with the trial court, and petitioner did not request such a hearing.

Held: Petitioner was not denied due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 358 U. S. 577-587.

(a) On the record, this Court cannot say that petitioner was deprived of any right or of fundamental fairness by the fact that the trial court did not pursue the presentencing procedures prescribed by the Oklahoma statutes. Pp. 358 U. S. 582-583.

(b) The statement by the State's Attorney of the details of the crime and of petitioner's criminal record -- all admitted by petitioner to be true -- did not deprive petitioner of fundamental fairness or of any right of confrontation or cross-examination. Pp. 358 U. S. 583-584.

(c) On the record in this case, this Court cannot say that the sentencing judge was not entitled to consider the murder, along with all other circumstances involved, in determining the proper sentence for the kidnaping. Pp. 358 U. S. 584-586.

Page 358 U. S. 577

(d) Since kidnaping and murder are separate and distinct crimes under Oklahoma law, the court's consideration of the murder as a circumstance involved in the kidnaping cannot be said to have resulted in punishing petitioner a second time fol the same offense, nor to have denied him due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 358 U. S. 586.

(e) This Court cannot say that the death sentence for kidnaping, which was within the range of punishments authorized for that crime by Oklahoma law, denied to petitioner due process of law or any other constitutional right. Pp. 358 U. S. 586-587.

321 P.2d 990, affirmed.



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