MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.
On the evening of February 16, 1961, a man robbed a bank in Lake Charles, Louisiana, kidnapped three of the
Some two weeks later, Rideau was arraigned on charges of armed robbery, kidnapping, and murder, and two lawyers were appointed to represent him. His lawyers promptly filed a motion for a change of venue, on the ground that it would deprive Rideau of rights guaranteed to him by the United States Constitution to force him to trial in Calcasieu Parish after the three television broadcasts there of his "interview" with the sheriff.
Three members of the jury which convicted him had stated on voir dire that they had seen and heard Rideau's televised "interview" with the sheriff on at least one occasion. Two members of the jury were deputy sheriffs of Calcasieu Parish. Rideau's counsel had requested that these jurors be excused for cause, having exhausted all of their peremptory challenges, but these challenges for cause had been denied by the trial judge. The judgment of conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Louisiana, 242 La. 431, 137 So.2d 283, and the case is here on a writ of certiorari, 371 U.S. 919.
The record in this case contains as an exhibit the sound film which was broadcast. What the people of Calcasieu Parish saw on their television sets was Rideau, in jail, flanked by the sheriff and two state troopers, admitting in detail the commission of the robbery, kidnapping, and murder, in response to leading questions by the sheriff.
In Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278, this Court set aside murder convictions secured in a state trial with all the formalities of fair procedures, based upon "free and voluntary confessions" which in fact had been preceded by grossly brutal kangaroo court proceedings while the defendants were held in jail without counsel. As Chief Justice Hughes wrote in that case, "The State is free to regulate the procedure of its courts in accordance with its own conceptions of policy . . . . [But] it does not follow that it may substitute trial by ordeal." 297 U. S., at 285. Cf. White v. Texas, 310 U.S. 530. That was almost a generation ago, in an era before the onrush of an electronic age.
The case now before us does not involve physical brutality. The kangaroo court proceedings in this case involved a more subtle but no less real deprivation of due process of law. Under our Constitution's guarantee of due process, a person accused of committing a crime is vouchsafed basic minimal rights. Among these are the right to counsel,
The record shows that such a thing as this never took place before in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana.
MR. JUSTICE CLARK, with whom MR. JUSTICE HARLAN joins, dissenting.
On the evening of February 16, 1961, the petitioner, Wilbert Rideau, was arrested and confined in the Calcasieu Parish jail in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The arrest
On March 3, 1961, petitioner was arraigned on charges of armed robbery, kidnapping and murder. As required under the law of Louisiana, he pleaded not guilty to the two capital crimes, but he entered a plea of guilty to the charge of armed robbery. Counsel were appointed immediately, and they requested permission to withdraw the plea of guilty to armed robbery, which motion was granted. They then filed a motion to quash, and the State was required to elect under which count it wished to proceed. The State elected the murder count, and the trial was set for April 10, 1961.
The defense moved for a change of venue, which was denied after hearing. Thereupon a jury was empaneled and petitioner was tried and convicted of murder. The Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed and this Court now reverses that judgment, holding that the denial of petitioner's motion for change of venue was a deprivation of due process of law. Having searched the Court's opinion and the record, I am unable to find any deprivation of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment and I therefore dissent.
At the outset, two matters should be clearly established. First, I do not believe it within the province of law enforcement officers actively to cooperate in activities which tend to make more difficult the achievement of impartial justice. Therefore, if this case arose in a federal court, over which we exercise supervisory powers, I would vote to reverse the judgment before us. Cf. Marshall v.
Second, I agree fully with the Court that one is deprived of due process of law when he is tried in an environment so permeated with hostility that judicial proceedings can be "but a hollow formality." This proposition, and my position with regard thereto, are established in Irvin v. Dowd, 366 U.S. 717 (1961). At this point I must part company with the Court, however, not so much because it deviates from the principles established in Irvin but because it applies no principles at all. It simply stops at this point, without establishing any substantial nexus between the televised "interview" and petitioner's trial, which occurred almost two months later. Unless the adverse publicity is shown by the record to have fatally infected the trial, there is simply no basis for the Court's inference that the publicity, epitomized by the televised interview, called up some informal and illicit analogy to res judicata, making petitioner's trial a meaningless formality. See Beck v. Washington, 369 U.S. 541 (1962).
That the Court apparently does not realize the necessity of establishing this nexus is illustrated by its reliance on Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278 (1936). That case and its progeny
The fact that the adverse publicity was not evidence in the case is not controlling, however, for we have recognized that such matter may, in unusual circumstances, fatally infect a trial when it enters the courtroom indelibly imbedded in the minds of the jurors. We found such a situation in Irvin v. Dowd, supra, where the continuous wave of publicity concerning the offense and the past record of the petitioner so permeated the area where he was tried that
More important, of the 12 jurors finally placed in the jury box eight thought petitioner Irvin to be guilty. In view of those circumstances we unanimously reversed the judgment in that case, with the caveat that
Thus, in Irvin, because of the complete permeation, imbedding opinions of guilt in the minds of 90% of the veniremen and two-thirds of the actual jury, we held that petitioner had been deprived of his constitutional right to an impartial tribunal. Compare Beck v. Washington, supra. We now face the question whether this is such a situation and, for that determination, we must examine the publicity involved, the hearing on the motion for change of venue and the record of the voir dire examination.
Initially, we face an obstacle in determining the pervasiveness of the televised interview, since the circulation of a television program is less susceptible of determination than that of a newspaper. The figures quoted by the Court as representing the number of people who "saw and heard" the interview were given by the Program Director of the television station and represented the typical number of viewers at the times when the interview was broadcast, as determined by a rating service which had conducted a sampling some months previous to the broadcasts. The Director testified that those figures represented "an approximate number and, as I say, there is no way you can prove this because communications is an intangible business . . . ." Of course, assuming arguendo the accuracy of the figures given, there is no way of determining
The most crucial evidence relates to the composition of the 12-man jury. Of the 12 members of the panel only three had seen the televised interview which had been shown almost two months before the trial. The petitioner does not assert, and the record does not show, that these three testified to holding opinions of petitioner's guilt. They did testify, however, that they
Further, two members of the jury held honorary Deputy Sheriff's commissions from the Sheriff's department. Neither of these men was in any way connected with the department as a deputy, neither had ever made any arrests and neither had ever received any pay from the department. They both testified that they used the honorary commissions only for their convenience. They testified that these honorary commissions would not affect their ability to serve as jurors in any way, and the trial
The right to a trial before a fair and impartial tribunal "is a basic requirement of due process," In re Murchison, 349 U.S. 133, 136 (1955), and must be safeguarded with vigilance. As we recognized in Irvin, however, it is an impossible standard to require that tribunal to be a laboratory, completely sterilized and freed from any external factors. The determination of impartiality, in which demeanor plays such an important part, is particularly within the province of the trial judge. And when the jurors testify that they can discount the influence of external factors and meet the standard imposed by the Fourteenth Amendment, that assurance is not lightly to be discarded. When the circumstances are unusually compelling, as in Irvin, the assurances may be discarded, but "it is not asking too much that the burden of showing essential unfairness be sustained by him who claims such injustice and seeks to have the result set aside . . . ." Adams v. United States ex rel. McCann, 317 U.S. 269, 281 (1942). Since the petitioner clearly has not met that burden, I would affirm the judgment before us.
"A. Yes, sir.
"Q. Were you in court yesterday at the time a sound on film picture was shown to the court which had been shown on KPLC-TV encompassing an interview between Sheriff Reid and Rideau?
"A. I was.
"Q. In all of your 21 years, do you know of any similar case in this parish or Southwest Louisiana where a man charged with a capital crime was allowed—that pictures were made of him and the general public was shown the pictures and a sound track in which he confessed to a capital crime?
"A. No, sir."