Davis v. North Carolina
384 U.S. 737 (1966)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Davis v. North Carolina, 384 U.S. 737 (1966)

Davis v. North Carolina

No. 815

Argued April 28, 1966

Decided June 20, 1966

384 U.S. 737

Syllabus

Petitioner, an impoverished Negro of low mentality with a third or fourth grade education, was arrested after his escape from a state prison camp. Charlotte city police took him into custody in connection with a murder investigation, and kept him in a detention cell for 16 days, where he spoke to no one but the police, who interrogated him intermittently each day. He finally confessed to the crime. There is no indication in the record that police advised him of any of his rights until after his confessions. At his trial for rape-murder, a written confession and testimony of an oral confession were introduced in evidence despite counsel's objection that the confessions were involuntary. Petitioner was found guilty and sentenced to death. The conviction was affirmed by the North Carolina Supreme Court. The Federal District Court denied a writ of habeas corpus, but the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded to the District Court for an evidentiary hearing on the voluntariness of the confessions. The District Court, following a hearing, held the confessions voluntary, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: Petitioner's confessions were the involuntary end product of coercive influences, and thus constitutionally inadmissible in evidence. Pp. 384 U. S. 739-753.

(a) Had this trial occurred after Miranda v. Arizona, ante, p. 384 U. S. 436, the decision below would be reversed summarily. P. 384 U. S. 739.

(b) As Johnson v. New Jersey, ante, p. 384 U. S. 719, points out, the nonretroactivity of Miranda does not affect a court's duty to consider the voluntariness of statements under the standards of voluntariness which had begun to evolve long prior to Miranda and Escobedo v. Illinois,378 U. S. 478. P. 384 U. S. 740.

(c) The fact that a defendant was not advised of his right to remain silent or of his right to counsel at the outset of interrogation, as is now required by Miranda, is significant in considering the voluntariness of later statements. Pp. 384 U. S. 740-741.

(d) It is this Court's duty to examine the entire record and make an independent determination of the ultimate issue of voluntariness. Pp. 384 U. S. 741-742.

Page 384 U. S. 738

(e) The uncontested fact that no one other than the police spoke to petitioner during his 16 days' detention and interrogation is significant in determining voluntariness. Pp. 384 U. S. 745-746.

(f) Evidence of extended interrogation in a coercive atmosphere, as here, has often resulted in a finding of involuntariness by this Court, e.g., Fikes v. Alabama,352 U. S. 191. This Court has never sustained the use of a confession obtained after such a lengthy period of detention and interrogation as occurred here. P. 384 U. S. 752.

339 F.2d 770 reversed and remanded.

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