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U.S. Supreme Court

United States ex Rel. Darcy v. Handy, 351 U.S. 454 (1956)

United States ex Rel. Darcy v. Handy

No. 323

Argued May 1-2, 1956

Decided June 11, 1956

351 U.S. 454


Petitioner, a state prisoner under a sentence of death for murder committed during the course of an armed robbery, brought a habeas corpus proceeding in a Federal District Court, claiming that his conviction was obtained in violation of his rights to due process of law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. He charged .that he was tried under prejudicial circumstances and improper influences in that an atmosphere of hysteria and prejudice prevailed at the state trial, including the prejudicial conduct and frequent presence in the courtroom of another judge of the same court, who recently had presided over a trial of two associates of petitioner which had resulted in a like conviction and sentence for the murder.

Held: on the record in this case, petitioner was not denied due process of law. Pp. 351 U. S. 455-467.

(a) The burden was on petitioner to show such essential unfairness as vitiates his trial, and the burden must be sustained not as a matter of speculation, but as a demonstrable reality. P. 351 U. S. 462.

(b) The most that petitioner has shown is that, in certain respects, opportunity for prejudice existed. P. 351 U. S. 462.

(c) The record does not support the claim that the news coverage of the crime and of the proceedings prior to petitioner's trial created such an atmosphere of hysteria and prejudice as precluded a fair trial. Pp. 351 U. S. 463-464.

(d) There is no merit in petitioner's claim that he was "forced" to trial immediately after the trial of his associates, or in his claim that the trial judge, sua sponte, should have changed the venue or continued the trial. P. 351 U. S. 464.

(e) On the record in this case, the other judge's presence and conduct on the bench and in the courtroom were not so prejudicial as to deny due process. Pp. 351 U. S. 464-467.

(f) Petitioner has not sustained the burden of showing that his trial was essentially unfair in a constitutional sense. P. 351 U. S. 467.

224 F.2d 504 affirmed.

Page 351 U. S. 455

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