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decided: March 7, 1966.



Warren, Fortas, Harlan, Brennan, Black, Stewart, Clark, White, Douglas

Author: Clark

[ 383 U.S. Page 376]

 MR. JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1959 respondent Robinson was convicted of the murder of his common-law wife, Flossie May Ward, and was sentenced to imprisonment for life. Being an indigent he was defended by court-appointed counsel. It was conceded at trial that Robinson shot and killed Flossie May, but his counsel claimed that he was insane at the time of the shooting and raised the issue of his incompetence to stand trial. On writ of error to the Supreme Court of Illinois it was asserted that the trial court's rejection of these contentions deprived Robinson of due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment. His conviction was affirmed, the court finding that no hearing on mental capacity to stand trial had been requested, that the evidence failed to raise sufficient doubt as to his competence to require the trial court to

[ 383 U.S. Page 377]

     conduct a hearing on its own motion, and further that the evidence did not raise a "reasonable doubt" as to his sanity at the time of the offense. 22 Ill. 2d 162, 174 N. E. 2d 820 (1961). We denied certiorari. 368 U.S. 995 (1962). Thereupon, Robinson filed this petition for habeas corpus, which was denied without a hearing by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The Court of Appeals reversed, 345 F.2d 691 (1965), on the ground that Robinson was convicted in an unduly hurried trial without a fair opportunity to obtain expert psychiatric testimony, and without sufficient development of the facts on the issues of Robinson's insanity when he committed the homicide and his present incompetence. It remanded the case to the District Court with directions to appoint counsel for Robinson; to hold a hearing as to his sanity when he committed the alleged offense; and, if it found him to have been insane at that time, to order his release, subject to an examination into his present mental condition. The Court of Appeals directed that the District Court should also determine upon the hearing whether Robinson was denied due process by the state court's failure to conduct a hearing upon his competence to stand trial; and, if it were found his rights had been violated in this respect, that Robinson "should be ordered released, but such release may be delayed for a reasonable time . . . to permit the State of Illinois to grant Robinson a new trial." 345 F.2d, at 698. We granted certiorari to resolve the difficult questions of state-federal relations posed by these rulings. 382 U.S. 890 (1965). We have concluded that Robinson was constitutionally entitled to a hearing on the issue of his competence to stand trial. Since we do not think there could be a meaningful hearing on that issue at this late date, we direct that the District Court, after affording the State another opportunity to put Robinson to trial on its charges within a reasonable time, order him

[ 383 U.S. Page 378]

     discharged. Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals in this respect, except insofar as it contemplated a hearing in the District Court on Robinson's competence. Our disposition makes it unnecessary to reach the other reasons given by the Court of Appeals for reversal.*fn1


The State concedes that the conviction of an accused person while he is legally incompetent violates due process, Bishop v. United States, 350 U.S. 961 (1956), and that state procedures must be adequate to protect this right. It insists, however, that Robinson intelligently waived this issue by his failure to request a hearing on his competence at the trial; and, further, that on the basis of the evidence before the trial judge no duty rested upon him to order a hearing sua sponte. A determination of these claims necessitates a detailed discussion of the conduct of the trial and the evidence touching upon the question of Robinson's competence at that time.

The uncontradicted testimony of four witnesses*fn2 called by the defense revealed that Robinson had a long history of disturbed behavior. His mother testified that when he was between seven and eight years of age a brick dropped from a third floor hit Robinson on the head. "He blacked out and the blood run from his head like a faucet." Thereafter "he acted a little peculiar." The blow knocked him "cockeyed" and his mother took him to a specialist "to correct the crossness of his eyes." He also suffered headaches during his childhood, apparently stemming from the same event. His conduct became

[ 383 U.S. Page 379]

     noticeably erratic about 1946 or 1947 when he was visiting his mother on a furlough from the Army. While Robinson was sitting and talking with a guest, "he jumped up and run to a bar and kicked a hole in the bar and he run up in the front." His mother asked "what on earth was wrong with him and he just stared at [her], and paced the floor with both hands in his pockets." On other occasions he appeared in a daze, with a "glare in his eyes," and would not speak or respond to questions. In 1951, a few years after his discharge from the service, he "lost his mind and was pacing the floor saying something was after him." This incident occurred at the home of his aunt, Helen Calhoun. Disturbed by Robinson's conduct, Mrs. Calhoun called his mother about six o'clock in the morning, and she "went to see about him." Robinson tried to prevent Mrs. Calhoun from opening the door, saying "that someone was going to shoot him or someone was going to come in after him." His mother testified that, after gaining admittance, "I went to him and hugged him to ask him what was wrong and he went to pushing me back, telling me to get back, somebody was going to shoot him, somebody was going to shoot him." Upon being questioned as to Robinson's facial expression at the time, the mother stated that he "had that starey look and seemed to be just a little foamy at the mouth." A policeman was finally called. He put Robinson, his mother and aunt in a cab which drove them to Hines Hospital. On the way Robinson tried to jump from the cab, and upon arrival at the hospital he was so violent that he had to be strapped in a wheel chair. He then was taken in an ambulance to the County Psychopathic Hospital, from which he was transferred to the Kankakee State Hospital. The medical records there recited:

"The reason for admission: The patient was admitted to this hospital on the 5th day of June, 1952,

[ 383 U.S. Page 380]

     from the Hines Hospital. Patient began presenting symptoms of mental illness about a year ago at which time he came to his mother's house. He requested money and when it was refused, he suddenly kicked a hole in her bar.

"Was drinking and went to the Psychopathic Hospital. He imagined he heard voices, voices of men and women and he also saw things. He saw a little bit of everything. He saw animals, snakes and elephants and this lasted for about two days. He went to Hines. They sent him to the Psychopathic Hospital. The voices threatened him. He imagined someone was outside with a pistol aimed at him. He was very, very scared and he tried to call the police and his aunt then called the police. He thought he was going to be harmed. And he says this all seems very foolish to him now. Patient is friendly and tries to cooperate.

"He went through an acute toxic episode from which he has some insight. He had been drinking heavily. I am wondering possibly he isn't schizophrenic. I think he has recovered from this condition. I have seen the wife and she is in ...

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