Constitutional Law – Due Process – Judicial Review of Jury Determination on Coerced Character of Confession

Petitioner, suspected of the murder of his parents, was subjected to intensive police interrogation culminating in a confession to a state-employed psychiatrist. Petitioner had been allowed only a small amount of sleep and was suffering from a sinus condition when he was introduced to the psychiatrist, who was represented as a general practitioner. The questioning of the psychiatrist, who was skilled in hypnosis, was a subtle blend of threats and promises of leniency. Within the next three and one-half hours petitioner also confessed to a police captain, a business associate, and two assistant state prosecutors. The confession to the psychiatrist was held to have been coerced and its admission in evidence violative of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, but the finding of the jury in a second trial that the confessions subsequently given were voluntary was upheld and the conviction was affirmed. In a habeas corpus proceeding, petitioner charged that the confessions used against him were coerced. On certiorari, the United States Supreme Court held, petition granted and conviction reversed, Justices Minton, Reed, and Burton dissenting and Justice Jackson not participating. The confessions used against petitioner were parts of one continuous process of protracted interrogation and psychological pressure on him, and their admission as evidence was violative of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Leyra v. Denno, 347 U.S. 556, 74 S.Ct. 716 (1954).