A fugitive from an Alabama prison was arrested in Ohio and held
there for return to Alabama pursuant to proceedings instituted by
the Governor of Alabama. Although he had made no attempt to raise
such a question in the courts of Alabama, he claimed in Ohio that
his confinement in Alabama amounted, and would amount again, to
cruel and unusual punishment contrary to the Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendments, and he applied unsuccessfully to an Ohio state court
for release on a writ of habeas corpus. After exhausting his
remedies in the Ohio courts, he applied to a federal district court
in Ohio for habeas corpus on the same grounds. Alabama was not a
party to that proceeding.
the district court should not entertain the
application on its merits. Pp. 344 U. S.
(a) The scheme of interstate rendition set forth in Art. IV, §
2, cl. 2, of the Constitution and the statutes thereunder
contemplates the prompt return of a fugitive from justice as soon
as the state from which he fled demands him; these provisions do
not contemplate an appearance by that state in the asylum state to
defend against claimed abuses of the former state's prison system.
Pp. 344 U. S.
(b) The prisoner should test the constitutionality of his
treatment by Alabama in the courts of that State, where all parties
may be heard, where all pertinent testimony will be readily
available, and where suitable relief, if any is necessary, may be
fashioned. P. 344 U. S.
194 F.2d 542 reversed.
The District Court dismissed respondent's petition for habeas
corpus. The Court of Appeals reversed. 194 F.2d 542. On petition to
this Court, certiorari granted, and judgment reversed,
344 U. S.
Page 344 U. S. 87
The respondent is a fugitive from a prison in Alabama. The
Governor of that State instituted proceedings for his return, and
respondent was arrested in Ohio. Petitioner, the Sheriff of
Cuyahoga County, Ohio, now holds respondent for delivery to the
authorities of Alabama.
In an attempt to prevent his rendition to Alabama, respondent
applied to the Court of Common Pleas of Cuyahoga County for a writ
of habeas corpus. He alleged that, during his confinement in
Alabama, he had been brutally mistreated, that he would be
subjected to such mistreatment and worse if returned. Invoking the
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, he asserted that his past
confinement had amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, that any
future confinement administered by Alabama would similarly be in
violation of rights secured to him under the Federal Constitution.
Respondent asked that petitioner's efforts to return him to the
custody of Alabama be halted, and that he be immediately
Refusing to hear this claim on its merits, the Court of Common
Pleas denied respondent's application. This judgment was affirmed
by the Ohio Court of Appeals for the Eighth District. In re
88 Ohio App. 202, 89 N.E.2d 493. An appeal to the
State's Supreme Court was dismissed. Woodall v. Sweeney,
152 Ohio St. 368, 89 N.E.2d 494. This Court denied a petition for
certiorari. Woodall v. Sweeney,
339 U.S. 945.
Respondent then applied to the United States District Court for
the Northern District of Ohio, seeking his release upon the same
ground theretofore urged in the Ohio
Page 344 U. S. 88
courts. The District Court dismissed his petition for a writ of
habeas corpus without hearing evidence. But the Court of Appeals
for the Sixth Circuit reversed, without opinion, remanding the
cause to the District Court for a hearing on the merits of the
constitutional claim. 194 F.2d 542. Petitioner has now applied to
this Court for a writ of certiorari.
Recently, in Dye v. Johnson,
338 U.S. 864 (1949), this
Court considered a petition for certiorari in a similar case. The
Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit had sustained an application
for habeas corpus by a fugitive prisoner from Georgia who alleged,
as respondent does now, that his confinement in the demanding state
amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of his
constitutional rights. Presented with a petition for certiorari to
review this decision, we reversed, summarily, citing Ex parte
Hawk, 321 U. S. 114
(1944). Shortly after our decision in the Dye
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed a
District Court's dismissal of a similar petition for habeas corpus
from still another fugitive, holding that the federal courts in the
asylum should not entertain such applications. Johnson v.
86 U.S.App.D.C. 376, 182 F.2d 677 (1950). [Footnote 1
In the present case, as in the others, a fugitive from justice
has asked the federal court in his asylum to pass
Page 344 U. S. 89
upon the constitutionality of his incarceration in the demanding
state, although the demanding state is not a party before the
federal court and although he has made no attempt to raise such a
question in the demanding state. The question is whether, under
these circumstances, the district court should entertain the
fugitive's application on its merits.
Respondent makes no showing that relief is unavailable to him in
the courts of Alabama. Had he never eluded the custody of his
former jailers, he certainly would be entitled to no privilege
permitting him to attack Alabama's penal process by an action
brought outside the territorial confines of Alabama in a forum
where there would be no one to appear and answer for that State.
Indeed, as a prisoner of Alabama, under the provisions of 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254, [Footnote 2
] and under
the doctrine of Ex parte Hawk, supra,
he would have been
required to exhaust all available remedies in the state courts
before making any application to the federal courts sitting in
By resort to a form of "self help," respondent has changed his
status from that of a prisoner of Alabama to that of a fugitive
from Alabama. But this should not affect the authority of the
Alabama courts to determine the validity of his imprisonment in
Alabama. The scheme of interstate rendition, as set forth in both
Page 344 U. S. 90
Constitution [Footnote 3
and the statutes which Congress has enacted to implement the
Constitution, [Footnote 4
contemplates the prompt return of a fugitive from justice as soon
as the state from which he fled demands him; these provisions do
not contemplate an appearance by Alabama in respondent's asylum to
defend against the claimed abuses of its prison system. [Footnote 5
] Considerations fundamental
to our federal system require that the prisoner test the claimed
unconstitutionality of his treatment by Alabama in the courts of
that State. Respondent should be required to initiate his suit in
the courts of Alabama, where all parties may be heard, where all
pertinent testimony will be readily available and where suitable
relief, if any is necessary, may be fashioned.
The District Court properly dismissed the application for habeas
corpus on its face, and the Court of Appeals erred in holding that
the applicant was entitled to a hearing in the District Court of
Ohio on the merits of his constitutional claim against prison
officials of Alabama.
Accordingly, the petition for certiorari is granted, and the
judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed.
It is so ordered.
In other similar cases, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth
Circuit, in Ross v. Middlebrooks,
188 F.2d 308 (1951), and
the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in Davis v.
185 F.2d 513, have reached a like result. In
United States ex rel. Jackson v. Ruthazer,
181 F.2d 588,
589 (1950), the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that a
fugitive from Georgia was not entitled to a hearing in the federal
courts in his asylum on the ground that the merits had been fully
heard in the state courts of the asylum and the fugitive's claim
"An application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a
person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall
not be granted unless it appears that the applicant has exhausted
the remedies available in the courts of the State, or that there is
either an absence of available State corrective process or the
existence of circumstances rendering such process ineffective to
protect the rights of the prisoner."
"An applicant shall not be deemed to have exhausted the remedies
available in the courts of the State, within the meaning of this
section, if he has the right under the law of the State to raise,
by any available procedure, the question presented."
U.S.Const., Art. IV, § 2, cl. 2:
"A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other
Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State,
shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which
he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having
Jurisdiction of the Crime."
1 Stat. 302, as amended, 18 U.S.C. § 3281.
Cf. Drew v. Thaw, 235 U. S. 432
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, concurring.
I join in the Court's opinion because I agree that due regard
for the relation of the States, one to another, in our federal
system and for that of the courts of the
Page 344 U. S. 91
United States to those of the States requires that claims even
as serious as those here urged first be raised in the courts of the
demanding State. Even so, it is appropriate to emphasize that, in
this case, there is no suggestion in the application for habeas
corpus that the prisoner would be without opportunity to resort to
the courts of Alabama for protection of his constitutional rights
upon his return to Alabama. We cannot assume unlawful action of the
prison officials which would prevent the petitioner from invoking
the aid of the local courts nor readily open the door to such a
claim. Compare Cochran v. Kansas, 316 U.
. Our federal system presupposes confidence that a
demanding State will not exploit the action of an asylum State by
indulging in outlawed conduct to a returned fugitive from
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting.
The petition presents facts which, if true, make this a shocking
case in the annals of our jurisprudence.
Respondent, a Negro, was convicted of burglary in Alabama and
sentenced to hard labor at a state penitentiary. After six years,
he escaped and was apprehended in Ohio. Thereafter Alabama
undertook to extradite him so that he could be returned to Alabama
and serve the balance of his sentence. He thereupon filed this
petition for habeas corpus to be released from the custody of
petitioner, the Ohio sheriff who presently detains him.
He offered to prove that the Alabama jailers have a nine-pound
strap with five metal prongs that they use to beat prisoners, that
they used this strap against him, that the beatings frequently
caused him to lose consciousness, and resulted in deep wounds and
He offered to prove that he was stripped to his waist and forced
to work in the broiling sun all day long without a rest period.
Page 344 U. S. 92
He offered to prove that, on entrance to the prison, he was
forced to serve as a "gal-boy" or female for the homosexuals among
Lurid details are offered in support of these main charges. If
any of them is true, respondent has been subjected to cruel and
unusual punishment in the past, and can be expected on his return
to have the same awful treatment visited upon him.
The Court allows him to be returned to Alabama on the theory
that he can apply to the Alabama courts for relief from the torture
inflicted on him. That answer would suffice in the ordinary case.
For a prisoner caught in the mesh of Alabama law normally would
need to rely on Alabama law to extricate him. But, if the
Allegations of the petition are true, this Negro must suffer
torture and mutilation or risk death itself to get relief in
Alabama. It is contended that there is no showing that the doors of
the Alabama courts are closed to petitioner, or that he would have
no opportunity to get relief. It is said that we should not assume
that unlawful action of prison officials would prevent petitioner
from obtaining relief in the Alabama courts. But we deal here not
with an academic problem, but with allegations which, if proved,
show that petitioner has in the past been beaten by guards to the
point of death, and will, if returned, be subjected to the same
treatment. Perhaps those allegations will prove groundless. But, if
they are supported in evidence, they make the return of this
prisoner a return to cruel torture.
I am confident that enlightened Alabama judges would make short
shrift of sadistic prison guards. But I rebel at the thought that
any human being, Negro or white, should be forced to run a gamut of
blood and terror in order to get his constitutional rights. That is
too great a price to pay for the legal principle that, before a
state prisoner can get federal relief, he must exhaust his
Page 344 U. S. 93
remedies. The enlightened view is indeed the other way. See
Johnson v. Dye,
175 F.2d 250 (which, unhappily, the Court
reversed, 338 U.S. 864); Johnson v. Matthews,
U.S.App.D.C. 376, 182 F.2d 677, 684-687; Commonwealth v.
Superintendent of County Prison,
152 Pa.Super. 167, 31 A.2d
Certainly there can be no solid objection to the use of habeas
corpus to test the legality of the treatment of a prisoner who has
been lawfully convicted. In Cochran v. Kansas,
316 U. S. 255
316 U. S. 258
habeas corpus was used to challenge the legality of the practice of
prison officials in denying a convict the opportunity of presenting
appeal papers to a higher court. And see In re Bonner,
151 U. S. 242
Such an act of discrimination against a prisoner was a violation of
the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The
infliction of "cruel and unusual punishments" against the command
of the Eighth Amendment is a violation of the Due Process Clause of
the Fourteenth Amendment, whether that clause be construed as
incorporating the entire Bill of Rights or only some of its
guaranties. See Adamson v. California, 332 U. S.
. Even under the latter and more restricted view, the
punishments inflicted here are so shocking as to violate the
standards of decency implicit in our system of jurisprudence.
Cf. Francis v. Resweber, 329 U. S. 459
The Court of Appeals should be sustained in its action in giving
respondent an opportunity to prove his charges. If they are
established, respondent should be discharged from custody and saved
the ordeal of enduring torture and risking death in order to
protect his constitutional rights. *
* The requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c) regulating the use of
habeas corpus are met, since the charges, if proved, would result
in a return of respondent to Alabama to a "custody in violation of
the Constitution" of the United States.