MCMANN V. RICHARDSON, 397 U. S. 759 (1970)

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U.S. Supreme Court

McMann v. Richardson, 397 U.S. 759 (1970)

McMann v. Richardson

No. 153

Argued February 24, 1970

Decided May 4, 1970

397 U.S. 759


Respondents were convicted in state court of felonies, following their pleas of guilty, entered on advice of counsel, which in petitions for collateral relief they claimed, inter alia, were the illegal product of coerced confessions. Following denial of relief in the state courts, the District Courts, without evidentiary hearings, denied the petitions. The Court of Appeals reversed in each case, holding that a guilty plea (1) effectively waives pretrial irregularities only if voluntary; (2) is not voluntary if it results from an involuntary confession, and (3) is vulnerable (at least in New York cases like these) where entered prior to Jackson v. Denno, 378 U. S. 368 (1964).


1. A competently counseled defendant who alleges that he pleaded guilty because of a prior coerced confession is not, without more, entitled to a hearing on his petition for habeas corpus. Pp. 397 U. S. 768-771.

(a) A defendant who pleads guilty despite his feeling that the evidence against him is weak, apart from a confession he deems inadmissible, is merely refusing to present his federal claims regarding the confession to the state court in the first instance. Such a defendant cannot claim that his bypass of state remedies was not an intelligent act absent incompetent advice by counsel. Pp. 397 U. S. 768-769.

(b) A defendant's plea of guilty based on reasonably competent advice is an intelligent plea not open to attack as being involuntary on the ground that his counsel may have misjudged the admissibility of the defendant's confession. Pp. 397 U. S. 769-771.

2. A defendant who pleads guilty, thereby waiving his state court remedies, does so under the law then existing and assumes the risk of ordinary error in either his or his attorney's assessment of the law and facts, and, in this case, the fact that respondents' counsel did not anticipate this Court's decision in Jackson v. Denno, supra, and did not consider invalid the New York procedures existing at the time their clients pleaded guilty does not mean that respondents were incompetently advised. Pp. 397 U. S. 771-774.

408 F.2d 48 and 658, and 409 F.2d 1016, vacated and remanded.

Page 397 U. S. 760

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