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UNITED STATES v. PATE

October 28, 1963

UNITED STATES EX REL. HENRY H. STAPLES, PETITIONER,
v.
FRANK J. PATE, WARDEN, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Will, District Judge.

The Court has considered petitioner Henry Staples' petition in forma pauperis for a writ of habeas corpus and the first supplement thereto; the memorandum on his behalf filed May 10, 1963; the brief filed July 2, 1963; a supplemental letter filed July 9, 1963; respondent's answer to the petition and supplement, motion to dismiss, and memorandum filed June 28, 1963; the transcript of proceedings in the post-conviction hearing held in the Circuit Court of St. Clair County on February 10, 1956, in the matter of Staples v. Illinois; and the Illinois Supreme Court's unreported affirmance thereof dated May 23, 1958 (No. 1978), cert. denied, 358 U.S. 851, 79 S.Ct. 78, 3 L.Ed. 2d 84 (1958). In addition, the Court has heard and considered testimony presented at a hearing in this matter held on June 21, 1963, and has examined the exhibits there tendered. On the basis of this consideration and examination, the Court hereby makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:

Findings of Fact

1. During the evening of October 11, 1942, at East St. Louis, Illinois, petitioner's wife was struck repeatedly with an ax; she died soon thereafter.

2. Petitioner was arrested early the following morning but denied any participation in the homicide.

3. While in custody in a police squad car, petitioner verbally agreed to a search of his home by police officers and accompanied the officers to his home where, with an officer standing on each side of him, he unlocked the door and they entered. The search resulted in the discovery of an ax, a shirt and a pair of pants, all bloodstained, and all of which were seized by the police.

4. Initially, petitioner maintained that the blood was that of a hog he had recently butchered. However, after further questioning, unaccompanied by physical coercion or threats, he admitted having killed his wife, and he signed a written confession thereof.

5. Petitioner was not taken before a magistrate until sometime on the following day, October 13, 1942.

6. On December 18, 1942, petitioner was indicted for murder by the Grand Jury for St. Clair County, Illinois. A few days later, he was arraigned in the Circuit Court of St. Clair County where he pleaded not guilty.

7. On January 13, 1943, while represented by privately employed counsel, Mr. Noah W. Parden, petitioner withdrew his plea of not guilty and entered a plea of guilty to murder.

8. The presiding judge, Morris B. Joyce, admonished petitioner as to the consequences of this plea, but he persisted therein. Judge Joyce received the plea, held a short hearing on the facts — at which petitioner, among others, testified — and sentenced him to 99 years imprisonment which term he is presently serving at the Illinois State Penitentiary, Joliet.

9. Petitioner has made repeated efforts to obtain a copy of the transcript of the above-described proceedings before Judge Joyce, the first attempt being by a letter dated November 4, 1947. He has never been successful and no such transcript presently exists.

10. On February 10, 1956, petitioner's case was the subject of a post-conviction hearing held in the Circuit Court of St. Clair County before Judge Quinten Spivey.

11. Petitioner was represented therein by court-appointed counsel, Mr. William R. Hotto, and petitioner alone testified in his own behalf.

12. In his testimony there, petitioner contended that (1) he had been physically coerced into signing the confession (five police officers allegedly having beaten him with blackjacks on each of three successive nights after his arrest until he signed); (2) he had pleaded not guilty, but the court entered his plea as guilty; (3) he had demanded a jury trial, but Judge Joyce denied him the right to have one; (4) he had requested a trial delay until one Henry Anderson, allegedly an eye-witness to the homicide, could be located and brought in to testify, but the ...


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