MASSEY V. MOORE, 348 U. S. 105 (1954)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Massey v. Moore, 348 U.S. 105 (1954)

Massey v. Moore

No. 119

Argued November 8, 1954

Decided December 6, 1954

348 U.S. 105


In a habeas corpus proceeding in a federal court, petitioner sought release from life imprisonment for a noncapital offense of which he had been convicted in a state court. He alleged that he was tried and convicted without counsel while he was insane and unable to defend himself. The state courts had denied him relief because, under state law, the question whether he was insane, and thus unable to defend himself, could be raised only at the trial or on appeal, not collaterally. The question whether, at the time of the trial, he was mentally competent to defend himself without counsel has never been determined.

Held: petitioner is entitled to a hearing on this question, since it would be a denial of the due process required by the Fourteenth Amendment to require an insane man to stand trial in a state court without counsel. Pp. 348 U. S. 106-109.

(a) One might not be insane in the sense of being incapable of standing trial and yet lack the capacity to stand trial without benefit of counsel. P. 348 U. S. 108.

(b) An insane man tried without counsel cannot be held to the requirement of tendering the issue of his insanity at the trial. Pp. 348 U. S. 108-109.

(c) Failure of an insane man without counsel to raise the question of his insanity on appeal does not waive his constitutional right. P. 348 U. S. 109.

205 F.2d 665 reversed.

Page 348 U. S. 106

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