JOHNSON V. NEW JERSEY, 384 U. S. 719 (1966)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719 (1966)

Johnson v. New Jersey

No. 762

Argued February 28, March 1-2, 1966

Decided June 20, 1966

384 U.S. 719


Petitioners' confessions were offered in evidence by the State in their trial for felony murder, at which they were found guilty and sentenced to death. Their convictions became final six years ago. On collateral attack, petitioners now argue that the confessions were inadmissible under Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U. S. 478. The New Jersey Supreme Court held that Escobedo did not apply retroactively.


1. Neither Escobedo nor Miranda v. Arizona, ante p. 384 U. S. 436, which set down additional guidelines, is to be applied retroactively. Pp. 384 U. S. 726-735.

(a) Linkletter v. Walker, 381 U. S. 618, and Tehan v. Shott, 382 U. S. 406, established the principle that, in criminal litigation concerning constitutional claims, the Court may make a rule of criminal procedure prospective, basing its determination upon the purpose of the new standards, the reliance placed on the prior decisions on the subject, and the effect on the administration of justice of a retroactive application of the rule. Pp. 384 U. S. 726-727.

(b) The choice between retroactivity and nonretroactivity does not depend on the value of the constitutional guarantee involved or the provision of the Constitution on which the dictate is based, but takes account of the extent to which other safeguards are available to protect the integrity of the truth-determining process at trial. Pp. 384 U. S. 728-729.

(c) While Escobedo and Miranda guard against the possibility of unreliable statements in cases of in-custody interrogation, they cover situations where the danger is not necessarily as great as when the accused is subjected to overt and obvious coercion. P. 384 U. S. 730.

(d) For persons whose trials have already been completed, the case law on coerced confessions is available if the procedural prerequisites for direct or collateral attack are met. P. 384 U. S. 730.

(e) Law enforcement agencies fairly relied on prior cases, now no longer binding, in obtaining incriminating statements during the years preceding Escobedo and Miranda, and retroactive

Page 384 U. S. 720

application of those cases would seriously disrupt administration of the criminal laws. P. 384 U. S. 731.

(f) Escobedo and Miranda should apply only to case where the trials have commenced after the decision were announced, June 22, 1964, and June 13, 1966, respectively. Pp. 384 U. S. 733-735.

2. The other grounds asserted by petitioners which may be tested by this review are without merit; their contentions relating to the voluntariness of their confessions are beyond the scope of the review in this proceeding. P. 384 U. S. 735.

43 N.J. 572, 20 A.2d 737, affirmed.

Page 384 U. S. 721

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