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UNITED STATES EX REL. FARNUM v. MCNEILL

January 10, 1958

UNITED STATES of America ex rel. Ruth FARNUM, Petitioner,
v.
John F. McNEILL, M.D., as Director of Matteawan State Hospital, Respondent



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEVET

Ruth Farnum, an inmate of Matteawan State Hospital for the criminally insane, has petitioned this court for a writ of habeas corpus.

Upon the initial petition, a hand-written letter dated June 14, 1957, the application for the writ was denied since it did not appear that the petitioner had exhausted her state remedies or that the procedure followed by state officials in obtaining her commitment was violative of due process. However, by order dated July 16, 1957, an application by the petitioner for reargument was granted, and the clerk of this court was directed to issue a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum directing that petitioner be produced.

 At the court's suggestion and at petitioner's request, she was assigned an able and experienced attorney to represent her. When the matter came on for hearing, however, the petitioner, in open court, arbitrarily and capriciously rejected his services. Nevertheless, as a friend of the court, he attended the first session. Petitioner was also afforded ample opportunity to obtain counsel of her own choosing, but she did not do so.

 Hearing on reargument of the application for habeas corpus were held on September 11, October 4 and November 18, 1957. After hearing the petitioner upon her own behalf, and the Attorney General on behalf of the respondent, and after examining the exhibits, affidavits and briefs or memoranda submitted on behalf of the respective parties, I have concluded that the petitioner's confinement is not violative of due process and that no basis exists for the granting of a writ of habeas corpus by this court.

 The following is a summary of the facts relating to petitioner's confinement:

 1. On July 3, 1948, the petitioner was arrested on a charge of assault in the third degree. The arrest was made in petitioner's apartment by two police officers without a warrant over eight hours after the commission of the alleged assault. A complaint was sworn out by Hazel Mathis, the victim of the alleged assault, and petitioner was arraigned before New York City Magistrate Harry G. Andrews. The complaint was read to the petitioner, and she was informed of her right to secure an adjournment in order to obtain counsel or witnesses. She pleaded not guilty and requested an adjournment. The case was thereupon adjourned to July 6, 1948, petitioner being paroled in her own custody.

 2. The case was subsequently adjourned from July 6, 1948 to July 12, 1948 in order to permit petitioner to obtain counsel of her own choosing.

 3. On July 12, 1948, petitioner appeared before Magistrate Morris Ploscowe and requested an adjournment on the ground that her attorney was out of town. When questioned by the Magistrate, petitioner refused to reveal the name of the attorney because she had not yet engaged him and she did not know whether she would in fact retain him. Petitioner refused to have counsel assigned to her and agreed to return at 2:00 P.M. with an attorney. That afternoon, petitioner appeared with counsel. A conference in chambers ensued, during which petitioner disappeared. A warrant for petitioner's arrest was issued.

 4. On August 24, 1948, the petitioner was brought before Magistrate Andrews by an officer. Petitioner waived examination. Bail was fixed at $ 100 and the case was referred to the Court of Special Sessions for trial.

 5. An information charging petitioner with assault in the third degree was filed in the Court of Special Sessions on September 16, 1948.

 6. After several adjournments, petitioner was tried in the Court of Special Sessions on January 3, 1949 before Judges Nathan D. Perlman, Joseph V. Loscalzo and William B. Northrop and was found guilty. At the trial she was represented by counsel of her own choosing. After her conviction, but before sentence, she was ordered committed to Bellevue Hospital for observation and report.

 7. On January 26, 1949, a report was submitted by the Psychiatric Division of Bellevue Hospital to the Court of Special Sessions stating that petitioner was in such a state of insanity as to be incapable of understanding the charges made against her.

 8. On February 14, 1949, Judge Northrop on his own motion ordered petitioner's convictions set aside, and further ordered petitioner discharged on her own recognizance.

 9. On February 25, 1949, Hon. Benedict D. Dineen of the New York Supreme Court, New York County, granted petitioner's application for a writ of habeas corpus on the ground that the record of the proceedings in the Court of Special Sessions did not lay an adequate foundation for petitioner's commitment. Petitioner ...


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