In 1954 in Chemung County Court, petitioner Norman Horton was convicted of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death, a sentence later commuted to life imprisonment. In 1967, after the decisions in Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 84 S. Ct. 1774, 12 L. Ed. 2d 908 (1964), and People v. Huntley, 15 N.Y.2d 72, 255 N.Y.S.2d 838, 204 N.E.2d 179 (1965), a hearing was held in Chemung County Court to determine the voluntariness of two confessions used against petitioner at his trial. The court found the confessions to be voluntary, a determination upheld on appeal, People v. Horton, 30 A.D.2d 709, 290 N.Y.S.2d 767 (3d Dept. 1968), cert. denied, 394 U.S. 991, 89 S. Ct. 1478, 22 L. Ed. 2d 765 (1969), and on application to this court for a writ of habeas corpus. United States ex rel. Horton v. Mancusi, Civil No. 1969-282 (W.D.N.Y., Nov. 19, 1969). In 1969 petitioner returned to the Chemung County Court, seeking a writ of error coram nobis on the ground that testimony given at the 1967 hearing constituted newly discovered evidence showing he had been deprived of his right to due process of law at his trial. The application was denied without a hearing, the denial was affirmed, People v. Horton, 35 A.D.2d 784, 315 N.Y.S.2d 613 (3d Dept. 1970), and leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals was denied.
Petitioner's claim arises out of the following facts. On May 24, 1955 petitioner's father was stabbed to death while he slept. For several days thereafter petitioner was questioned by law enforcement officials, although he denied involvement in the crime. Subsequently petitioner voluntarily entered the Binghamton State Hospital for the purpose of taking "truth serum" to satisfy officials that he had not committed the crime. After maintaining his innocence on two occasions, while under the influence of the "truth serum", petitioner revealed his guilt to one Mathias Barrows, a fellow patient. Barrows reported the confession to the police and was enlisted to aid them in obtaining more facts from petitioner.
Barrows testified at trial about petitioner's confession. Although he stated on direct examination that he had been on parole at the time he entered the hospital and had gone there on the recommendation of his parole officer, he was not asked on cross-examination whether he had received any promises or other inducements for his cooperation at the hospital and for his testimony at trial.