Douglas v. Alabama
380 U.S. 415 (1965)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Douglas v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 415 (1965)

Douglas v. Alabama

No. 313

Argued March 9-10, 1965

Decided April 5, 1965

380 U.S. 415

Syllabus

Petitioner and an alleged accomplice were tried separately in state court for assault with intent to murder. The alleged accomplice was called as a state witness in petitioner's trial, but repeatedly refused on self-incrimination grounds to testify. Under the guise of cross-examining the accomplice as a hostile witness, the prosecutor, over petitioner's objections and despite the accomplice's continuing refusal to answer, read in the presence of the jury the latter's purported confession which implicated the petitioner. Three law enforcement officers then identified the document as the confession signed by the accomplice, though it was not offered in evidence. The jury found petitioner guilty.

Held:

1. Petitioner's inability to cross-examine the alleged accomplice about the purported confession, the prosecutor's reading of which may well have been treated by the jury as substantial and cogent evidence of guilt, denied petitioner the right of cross-examination secured by the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment, which is made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth. Pointer v. Texas, ante, p. 380 U. S. 400, followed. Pp. 380 U. S. 418-420.

2. The opportunity to cross-examine the law enforcement officers did not redress denial of petitioner's right of confrontation. Pp. 380 U. S. 419-420.

3. Petitioner's objections to the reading of the purported confession adequately preserved his claim of denial of a federal constitutional right regardless of their adequacy under state law as construed by the state appellate. Pp. 380 U. S. 420-422.

42 Ala.App. 314, 163 So.2d 477, reversed and remanded.

Page 380 U. S. 416

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