Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Watts v. Indiana case brief

Watts v. Indiana case brief summary
338 U.S. 49 (1949)

Defendant sought certiorari to review the judgment of the Supreme Court of Indiana, which affirmed his conviction for murder, notwithstanding his contention that his confession was procured under circumstances rendering its admission in evidence a denial of due process of law.

Defendant was arrested for an alleged criminal assault. Later the same day, in the vicinity of this occurrence, a woman was found dead. Police questioned defendant about the murder for four straight days, at all hours of the day. Until his inculpatory statements were secured, defendant was a prisoner in the exclusive control of the prosecuting authorities. He was kept for the first two days in solitary confinement. Although the law of Indiana required that defendant be given a prompt preliminary hearing before a magistrate, he was not only given no hearing during the entire period of interrogation but was without friendly or professional aid and without advice as to his constitutional rights.

  • The court held that the police violated defendant's due process rights when it subjected him to this relentless interrogation and that his confession was not voluntary. 
  • A statement to be voluntary did not need to be volunteered. 
  • But if it was the product of sustained pressure by the police it did not issue from a free choice.
The court reversed the judgment of the Indiana Supreme Court.

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