Where petitioner timely raised the issue of voluntariness of his
confession, the testimony on the point was conflicting, and the
trial judge failed to rule on the matter, but left the question
solely to the jury,
reversed and remanded for a hearing in accordance
with the rule in Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.
. The trial judge need not make formal findings of
fact or write an opinion, but it must clearly appear from the
record that he made a primary finding of voluntariness before the
confession was introduced into evidence before the jury. Pp.
385 U. S.
221 Ga. 190, 144 S.E.2d
, reversed and remanded.
MR. JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.
Petitioner, a Negro, has been convicted of raping a white woman
and has been given the death penalty. He raises five federal
questions [Footnote 1
consideration by this
Page 385 U. S. 539
Court, among which is that his Fourteenth Amendment rights to a
fair trial were violated by the state trial judge's failure to
determine the voluntariness of his alleged confession prior to its
admission into evidence before the jury, as required by the rule in
Jackson v. Denno, 378 U. S. 368
(1964). The Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that Jackson
was not applicable, and affirmed petitioner's conviction, Sims
221 Ga. 190, 144 S.E.2d
. We granted certiorari limited to the five questions, 384
U.S. 998. We have determined that petitioner's case is controlled
by Jackson, supra,
and therefore we do not reach any of
the other issues raised.
The record indicates that, on April 13, 1963, a 29-year-old
white woman was driving home alone in her automobile when
petitioner drove up behind her in his car,
Page 385 U. S. 540
forced her off the road into a ditch, took the woman from her
car into nearby woods and forcibly raped her. When he returned to
his car, he could not start the engine, so he left the scene on
foot. Some four hours later, he was apprehended by some Negro
workers who had been alerted to be on the watch for him. He told
these Negroes that he had attacked a white woman. They then turned
petitioner over to their employer, who delivered him to two state
patrolmen. He was then taken to the office of a Doctor Jackson, who
had previously examined the victim. Petitioner's clothing was
removed in order to test it for blood stains. Petitioner testified
that, while he was in Doctor Jackson's office, he was knocked down,
kicked over the right eye, and pulled around the floor by his
private parts. He was taken to a hospital owned by Doctor Jackson,
which was adjacent to his office, where four stitches were taken in
his forehead. Thereafter, the patrolmen took petitioner to
Waycross, Georgia, some 30 miles distant, where he was placed in
the county jail. During that evening, he saw a deputy sheriff whom
he had known for some 13 years and who was on duty on the same
floor of the jail where petitioner was incarcerated. He agreed to
make a statement, and was taken to an interview room where, in the
presence of the sheriff, the deputy sheriff and two police
officers, he signed a written confession. Two days later, he was
Prior to trial, petitioner filed a motion to suppress the
confession as being the result of coercion. A hearing was held
before the court out of the presence of the jury. The sheriff and
the deputy testified to the circumstances surrounding the taking
and signing of the confession. Petitioner testified as to the abuse
he had received while in Doctor Jackson's office. He testified that
he "felt pretty rough for about two or three weeks
Page 385 U. S. 541
(after the incident), more on my private than I did on my face,"
and that he "was paining a right smart." There was no contradictory
testimony taken. The court denied the motion to suppress without
opinion or findings, and the confession was admitted into evidence
at petitioner's trial.
At the trial, Doctor Jackson was a witness for the State. On
cross-examination, he denied that he had knocked petitioner down
while the latter was in his office, or that he had kicked him in
the forehead, but made no mention of the other abuse about which
petitioner testified. The doctor stated that petitioner was not
abused in his presence, but he refused to say whether the patrolmen
present abused petitioner, as he was not in the office at all times
while the petitioner was there with the patrolmen. In this state of
the record, petitioner's testimony in this regard was left
There is no actual ruling or finding in the record showing that
the trial judge determined the voluntariness of the confession.
Although he admitted it into evidence, it appears that he was only
following a longstanding state practice that the
"State, having made out a prima facie
case that the
alleged confession was freely and voluntarily made, it was a
question for the jury to determine on conflicting evidence whether
the alleged confession was freely and voluntarily made."
Downs v. State,
208 Ga. 619, 621, 68 S.E.2d 568
570. Defense counsel called the court's attention to the
Jackson v. Denno
ruling of this Court, and stated that he
"know whether the procedure being followed at this time
satisfies the rule decided by the Supreme Court on June 22nd, 1964,
that the Court must make judicial determination whether the
statement was made voluntarily before it is read to the
Page 385 U. S. 542
In his charge to the jury, the judge directed that it was for
the jury to determine whether the confession was actually made or
not, and to disregard it if not made freely and voluntarily.
On appeal to the Supreme Court of Georgia, it was held proper
for the trial judge to have left the question of the voluntariness
of the confession to the jurors with instructions that they should
disregard it if they should determine that it was not, in fact,
voluntarily made. Indeed, that court specifically found that the
"related facts made a prima facie
showing that the
statement was freely and voluntarily made, and admissible in
evidence." 221 Ga. at 198, 144 S.E.2d at 110. It therefore seems
clear from the opinion of the highest court of Georgia that it has
applied its own rule, rather than having followed the rule set down
for the procedural determination of the
voluntariness of a confession. This conclusion is buttressed by the
fact that the court below also found that the "Georgia rule
presents the question to the jury without giving them the judgment
of the judge." Id.
at 200, 144 S.E.2d at 111. This is the
exact procedural device which is proscribed by the rule in
The Supreme Court of Georgia reasoned, however, that
was not applicable, because of the safeguards that
Georgia's laws erect around the use of confessions. It pointed out
that, under Georgia law, before a confession may be admitted, it
must be corroborated and a showing made that it was freely and
voluntarily given. In addition, the trial judge has the power to
set aside the verdict of the jury and grant a new trial if, in his
opinion, the jury was in error. The court concluded that the rule
is satisfied by Georgia law, and
Page 385 U. S. 543
that "It would be difficult to find a more complete satisfaction
of the requirement of Jackson
than Georgia provides." Id.
at 201, 144 S.E.2d at 111. The court also felt that, if this not be
true, in any event,
"the unsound implications of Jackson
should not be
extended one iota to make it cover cases not explicitly covered by
it such as this case where there was no evidence to make any issue
of voluntariness. Without an issue, there is nothing to try."
We cannot agree. There was a definite, clear-cut
issue here. Petitioner testified that Doctor Jackson physically
abused him while he was in his office and that he was suffering
from that abuse when he made the statement, thereby rendering such
confession involuntary and the result of coercion. The doctor
admitted that he saw petitioner on the floor of his office; that he
helped him disrobe, and that he knew that petitioner required
hospital treatment because of the laceration over his eye, but he
denied that petitioner was actually abused in his presence. He was
unable to state, however, that the state patrolmen did not commit
the alleged offenses against petitioner's person, because he was
not in the room during the entire time in which the petitioner and
the patrolmen were there. In fact, the doctor was quite evasive in
his testimony, and none of the officers present during the incident
were produced as witnesses. Petitioner's claim of mistreatment,
therefore, went uncontradicted as to the officers, and was in
conflict with the testimony of the physician. Under
it was for the trial judge to first decide these
conflicts and discrepancies. This he failed to do.
Furthermore, Georgia's highest court, in finding that its rule
satisfied the requirements of Jackson,
overlooked the fact
that the same safeguards offered by the Georgia practice were
present in the procedures of New York in Jackson
rejected by this Court. A constitutional rule was laid down in that
case that a jury is
Page 385 U. S. 544
not to hear a confession unless and until the trial judge has
determined that it was freely and voluntarily given. The rule
allows the jury, if it so chooses, to give absolutely no weight to
the confession in determining the guilt or innocence of the
defendant, but it is not for the jury to make the primary
determination of voluntariness. Although the judge need not make
formal findings of fact or write an opinion, his conclusion that
the confession is voluntary must appear from the record with
unmistakable clarity. Here, there has been absolutely no ruling on
that issue, and it is therefore impossible to know whether the
judge thought the confession voluntary or if the jury considered it
as such in its determination of guilt. Jackson,
been decided June 22, 1964, was binding on the courts of Georgia in
this case, it having been tried October 7, 1964. Such rule is, as
we have said, a constitutional rule binding upon the States, and,
under the Supremacy Clause of Article VI of the Constitution, it
must be obeyed.
The judgment is, therefore, reversed and cause is remanded for a
hearing as provided by Jackson v. Denno, supra,
378 U. S.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE BLACK dissents for the reasons stated in his dissent
in Jackson v. Denno,
378 U.S. at 378 U. S.
The five questions are:
"1. Whether petitioner's Fourteenth Amendment rights were
violated by a conviction and sentence to death obtained on the
basis of a confession made under inherently coercive circumstances
within the doctrine of Fikes v. Alabama, 352 U. S.
"2. Whether petitioner's Fourteenth Amendment rights were
violated by the failure of the Georgia courts to afford a fair and
reliable procedure for determining the voluntariness of his alleged
coerced confession in disregard of the principle of Jackson v.
Denno, 378 U. S. 368
"3. Whether petitioner's Fourteenth Amendment right to counsel
as declared in Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U. S.
, was violated by the use of his confession obtained
during police interrogation in the absence of counsel, or whether
petitioner's right to counsel was effectively waived."
"4. Is a conviction constitutional where:"
"(a) local practice pursuant to state statute requires racially
segregated tax books and county jurors are selected from such
"(b) the number of Negroes chosen is only 5% of the jurors but
they comprise about 20% of the taxpayers; and"
"(c) a Negro criminal defendant's offer to prove a practice of
arbitrary and systematic Negro inclusion or exclusion based on jury
lists of the prior ten years is disallowed?"
"5. Where a Negro defendant sentenced to death in Georgia for
the rape of a white woman offers to prove that nineteen times as
many Negroes as whites have been executed for rape in Georgia in an
effort to show that racial discrimination violating the equal
protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment produced such a
result, may this offer of proof be disallowed?"
This disposition is in keeping with the teaching of Jackson,
supra, that "a determination of . . . voluntariness" should occur
"in the the state courts in accordance with valid state
procedures . . . before this Court considers the case on direct
review or a petition for habeas corpus is filed in a Federal
378 U.S. at 378 U. S.