Wainwright v. Sykes
Annotate this Case
433 U.S. 72 (1977)
U.S. Supreme Court
Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72 (1977)
Wainwright v. Sykes
Argued March 29, 1977
Decided June 23, 1977
433 U.S. 72
During respondent's trial for murder, inculpatory statements made by him to police officers were admitted into evidence. No challenge was made on the ground that respondent had not understood warnings read to him pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436, nor did the trial judge sua sponte question their admissibility or hold a factfinding hearing. Respondent, who was convicted, did not challenge the admissibility of the statements on appeal, though later he did so, unavailingly, in a motion to vacate the conviction and in state habeas corpus petitions. He then brought this federal habeas corpus action under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, asserting the inadmissibility of his statements by reason of his lack of understanding of the Miranda warnings. The District Court ruled that, under Jackson v. Denno, 378 U. S. 368, respondent had a right to a hearing in the state court on the voluntariness of the statements, and that he had not lost that right by failing to assert his claim at trial or on appeal. The Court of Appeals agreed that respondent was entitled to a Jackson v. Denno hearing, and ruled that respondent's failure to comply with Florida's procedural "contemporaneous objection rule" (which, except as specified, requires a defendant to make a motion to suppress evidence prior to trial) would not bar review of the suppression claim unless the right to object was deliberately bypassed for tactical reasons.
Held: Respondent's failure to make timely objection under the Florida contemporaneous objection rule to the admission of his inculpatory statements, absent a showing of cause for the noncompliance and some showing of actual prejudice, bars federal habeas corpus review of his Miranda claim. Davis v. United States, 411 U. S. 233; Francis v. Henderson, 425 U. S. 536. Pp. 433 U. S. 77-91.
(a) Florida's rule, in unmistakable terms and with specified exceptions, requires that motions to suppress be raised before trial. P. 433 U. S. 85.
(b) There is no constitutional requirement in Jackson v. Denno, supra, or later cases that there be a voluntariness hearing absent some contemporaneous challenge to the use of a confession. P. 433 U. S. 86.
(c) The sweeping language set forth in Fay v. Noia, 372 U. S. 391,
which would render a State's contemporaneous objection rule ineffective to bar review of underlying federal claims in federal habeas corpus proceedings -- absent a "knowing waiver" or a "deliberate bypass" of the right to so object -- is rejected as according too little respect to the state contemporaneous objection rule. Such a rule enables the record to be made with respect to a constitutional claim when witnesses' recollections are freshest; enables the trial judge who observed the demeanor of witnesses to make the factual determinations necessary for properly deciding the federal question; and may, by forcing a trial court decision on the merits of federal constitutional contentions, contribute to the finality of criminal litigation. Conversely, the rule of Fay v. Noia may encourage defense lawyers to take their chances on a verdict of not guilty in a state trial court, intending to raise their constitutional claims in a federal habeas corpus court if their initial gamble fails, and detracts from the perception of the trial of a criminal case as a decisive and portentous event. Pp. 433 U. S. 87-90.
(d) Adoption of the "cause" and "prejudice" test of Francis, while giving greater respect than did Fay to the operation of state contemporaneous objection rules, affords an adequate guarantee that federal habeas corpus courts will not be barred from hearing claims involving an actual miscarriage of justice. The procedural history of this case and the evidence as presented at trial indicate that there exist here neither "cause" nor "prejudice" as are necessary to support federal habeas corpus review of the underlying constitutional contention. Pp. 433 U. S. 90-91.
528 F.2d 522, reversed and remanded.
REHNQUIST, J, delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., post, p. 433 U. S. 91, and STEVENS, J., post, p. 433 U. S. 94, filed concurring opinions. WHITE, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 433 U. S. 97. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 433 U. S. 99.
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