Smith v. Yeager
393 U.S. 122 (1968)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Smith v. Yeager, 393 U.S. 122 (1968)

Smith v. Yeager

No. 399

Decided November 12, 1968

393 U.S. 122

Syllabus

Following the Supreme Court of New Jersey's affirmance of petitioner's murder conviction, in 1961 petitioner sought a writ of habeas corpus in the District Court, asserting, among other grounds, that his confession had been coerced. Petitioner's then counsel, though asserting the right to an evidentiary hearing, relinquished it. Relying on the state trial record, the court held, inter alia, that the confession was not coerced, and denied the petition. Thereafter, Townsend v. Sain,372 U. S. 293, was decided, which substantially increased the availability of evidentiary hearings in habeas corpus proceedings. The Court of Appeals affirmed. In 1965, petitioner again sought habeas corpus in the District Court and asked for an evidentiary hearing. Noting that the coercion issue had been adjudicated in the prior habeas corpus proceeding, the District Court, without conducting an evidentiary hearing, denied the application. The Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that petitioner had waived his claim to such a hearing in 1961.

Held:

1. The essential question in a subsequent habeas corpus proceeding (to which the usual principles of res judicata do not apply, and regardless of waiver standards in other circumstances) is whether the petitioner, in the prior proceeding, "deliberately withheld the newly asserted ground or otherwise abused the writ."

2. Petitioner's failure to demand an evidentiary hearing in 1961, followed by such a demand after this Court decided Townsend v. Sain, constitutes no abuse of the writ of habeas corpus or a waiver of his claim to a hearing.

Certiorari granted; 395 F.2d 245, reversed and remanded.

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