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CHESSMAN v. TEETS

decided: June 10, 1957.

CHESSMAN
v.
TEETS, WARDEN



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.

Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Burton, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Whittaker; Warren took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Harlan

[ 354 U.S. Page 157]

 MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Our writ of certiorari in this case was limited to the following question:

"whether, in the circumstances of this case, the state court proceedings to settle the trial transcript, upon which petitioner's automatic appeal from his conviction was necessarily heard by the Supreme Court of the State of California, in which trial court proceedings petitioner allegedly was not represented in person or by counsel designated by the state court in his behalf, resulted in denying petitioner due process of law, within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States." 353 U.S. 928.

We believe that a mere statement of the facts in this long-drawn-out criminal litigation, material to the issue now before us, will suffice to show why we have reached the conclusion that the judgment of the Court of Appeals, affirming by a divided court*fn1 discharge of the writ of habeas corpus

[ 354 U.S. Page 158]

     habeas corpus herein, must be vacated, and the case remanded for further proceedings.

In May 1948, petitioner, following a trial by jury in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, was convicted of a series of felonies under a multi-count indictment, and was sentenced to death upon two counts charging him with kidnaping for the purpose of robbery, with infliction of bodily harm, in violation of ยง 209 of the California Penal Code. In capital cases California provides that "an appeal is automatically taken by the defendant without any action by him or his counsel,"*fn2 and that in such cases "the entire record of the action shall be prepared."*fn3 The Supreme Court of the State of California affirmed petitioner's conviction by a divided court. 38 Cal. 2d 166, 238 P. 2d 1001.

At the trial petitioner insisted upon defending himself, and repeatedly refused the trial court's offer of counsel, although he did have at his disposal the services of a deputy public defender, who acted as his "legal adviser" and was present at the counsel table throughout the trial. About a month after the conclusion of the trial, the official court reporter of the trial proceedings suddenly died, having at that time completed the dictation into a recording machine of what later turned out to be 646 out of 1,810 pages of the trial transcript. Following the denial of petitioner's motion in the Superior Court for a new trial,*fn4 there ensued the preparation and settlement of the trial transcript constituting the appellate record upon

[ 354 U.S. Page 159]

     which the California Supreme Court subsequently heard petitioner's appeal. It is the circumstances under which this transcript was prepared and settled that give rise to the issue now confronting us.

At the instance of the deputy district attorney in charge of the case, and with the approval of the trial judge, one Stanley Fraser, a court reporter and former colleague of the deceased reporter, Perry, was employed in September 1948 to transcribe the uncompleted portion of Perry's shorthand notes, amounting to 1,164 pages as finally transcribed. In November 1948 petitioner unsuccessfully sought to have the California Supreme Court halt the preparation of the transcript on the ground that Perry's notes could not be transcribed with reasonable accuracy.*fn5 Fraser accordingly went forward with the work, and was occupied with it over the next several months. A "rough" draft of the transcript was submitted to the trial judge in February 1949, but was not made available to petitioner, although he had requested that it be furnished him. After this draft had been gone over by the deputy district attorney, it was filed with the judge in final form on April 11, 1949, and a copy was then sent to the petitioner at San Quentin

[ 354 U.S. Page 160]

     Prison. Thereafter petitioner sent to the trial judge a list of some 200 corrections to the transcript, and at the same time moved that

"a hearing be ordered . . . to enable [petitioner] to determine actually the ability of Mr. Fraser to read Mr. Perry's notes, and to enable the [petitioner] to offer a showing this is not, and challenge it as, a usable transcript, and to enable [petitioner] to point out to the court the many inaccuracies and omissions in this transcript, to prove these inaccuracies and omissions, and for the court to determine these matters . . . ."

In these papers petitioner further stated that he had "not yet had the opportunity to confer with his legal advisor during the trial and consequently has been hesitant to offer error in certain instances until he has verified this error with his legal advisor."

Petitioner's motion was denied and the matter continued to proceed on an ex parte basis to final conclusion. At hearings held on June 1, 2, and 3, 1949, in which petitioner was not represented in person or by an attorney, the trial judge, after hearing Fraser's testimony as to the accuracy of his transcription and allowing some 80 of the corrections listed by petitioner, settled the record upon which petitioner's automatic appeal was to be heard. Thereafter petitioner made a motion in the California Supreme Court attacking the adequacy of these settlement proceedings, complaining, among other things, that he had not been permitted to appear at such proceedings. While that motion was pending, on August 18, 1949, a further hearing was held before the trial judge with reference to the settlement of the record, at which two witnesses were examined. Again, petitioner was not represented at this hearing either in person or by counsel. The

[ 354 U.S. Page 161]

     sufficiency of the record, as thus settled, was upheld by the California Supreme Court, first upon the motion just mentioned, 35 Cal. 2d 455, 218 P. 2d 769, and subsequently upon petitioner's appeal from his conviction, 38 Cal. 2d 166, 238 P. 2d 1001.

On October 17, 1955, this Court, reversing the Court of Appeals, remanded to the District Court for a hearing petitioner's application for a writ of habeas corpus, charging fraud in the preparation of the state court record, which had been summarily dismissed by the District Court. 350 U.S. 3.*fn6 This resulted in the judgment which is now before us. The District Court held that no fraud had been shown. The record of proceedings held before District Judge Goodman reveals the following additional facts as to the preparation of the state court record, none of which appear to be disputed by the State, which has been ably and conscientiously represented here: Fraser, the substitute reporter, was an uncle by marriage of the deputy district attorney in charge of this case, a fact of which neither the state trial court nor the appellate court was aware when it approved the transcript. In preparing the transcript, Fraser worked in close collaboration with the prosecutor, and also went over with two police officers, who testified for the State at the trial, his transcription of their testimony. The latter episodes were likewise unknown to the state courts when they approved the transcript. The testimony of one of these officers concerned petitioner's alleged confession, a subject of dispute at the trial, and petitioner's list of alleged inaccuracies, already mentioned, related to some of that testimony. It also appeared at this hearing that Fraser had destroyed the "rough" draft of his transcription

[ 354 U.S. Page 162]

     which petitioner had sought to obtain during the settlement proceedings.*fn7

Under the circumstances which have been summarized, we must hold that the ex parte settlement of this state court record violated petitioner's constitutional right to procedural due process. We think the petitioner was entitled to be represented throughout those proceedings either in person or by counsel. See Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45, 68; Snyder v. Massachusetts, 291 U.S. 97, 105; compare Dowdell v. United States, 221 U.S. 325, 331; Schwab v. Berggren, 143 U.S. 442, 449; see also Cole v. Arkansas, 333 U.S. 196, 201. If California chose to deny petitioner's request to appear in those proceedings in propria persona, it then became incumbent on the State to appoint counsel for him. Cf. Powell v. Alabama, supra. We cannot agree that petitioner's refusal to be represented by counsel at the trial constituted a waiver of his right to counsel at the settlement proceedings.*fn8 Moreover, it is at least doubtful ...


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