CHESSMAN V. TEETS, 354 U. S. 156 (1957)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Chessman v. Teets, 354 U.S. 156 (1957)

Chessman v. Teets

No. 893

Argued May 13, 1957

Decided June 10, 1957

354 U.S. 156


In a State Court, petitioner was convicted of a capital offense. The official court reporter of the trial proceedings died before his notes were transcribed, and they were transcribed by a substitute reporter, who worked in close collaboration with the prosecutor. Though a copy of the transcript was furnished to petitioner and many, but not all, corrections which he requested were made, he was not represented in person or by counsel when the trial record was settled, and it was used over his objection on his appeal, at which his conviction was affirmed. In a habeas corpus proceeding, a Federal District Court found that there was no fraud in the preparation of the record, and it dismissed the writ.

Held: in the circumstances of this case, the ex parte settlement of the record violated petitioner's right to procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 354 U. S. 157-166.

(a) Petitioner was entitled to be represented either in person or by counsel throughout the proceedings for the settlement of the trial record. P. 162.

(b) Petitioner's refusal to be represented by counsel at the trial did not constitute a waiver of his right to counsel at the settlement proceedings. P. 354 U. S. 162.

(c) The hearings before a federal judge in the habeas corpus proceedings, at which petitioner was personally present and represented by counsel, did not cure the lack of procedural due process in the state proceedings. P. 354 U. S. 163.

(d) Consistently with procedural due process, the State Supreme Court's affirmance of petitioner's conviction upon a seriously disputed record, whose accuracy petitioner had no voice in determining, cannot be allowed to stand. Pp. 354 U. S. 164-165.

(e) A valid appeal to the Constitution, even by a guilty man, does not come too late because courts were not earlier able to enforce what the Constitution demands. P. 354 U. S. 165.

(f) The judgments of the Federal District Court and Court of Appeals are vacated, and the case is remanded to the District Court

Page 354 U. S. 157

for entry of such orders as may be appropriate allowing the State a reasonable time within which to take further proceedings not inconsistent with this Court's opinion, failing which petitioner shall be discharged. P. 354 U. S. 166.

239 F.2d 205, judgment vacated and cause remanded.

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