Monday, November 4, 2013

Sheppard v. Maxwell case brief

Sheppard v. Maxwell case brief summary
384 U.S. 333 (1966)

Petitioner, who sought a writ of habeas corpus, appealed a judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which reversed a federal district court's decision holding that petitioner, who had been convicted in a state court of second degree murder, was not afforded a fair trial and which granted the writ subject to the State's right to put petitioner to trial again. The court granted certiorari.

Petitioner contended that he was denied a fair trial in his state conviction for the second-degree murder of his wife because of the state trial court's failure to protect him sufficiently from the massive, pervasive, and prejudicial publicity that attended his prosecution.

The court concluded that petitioner did not receive a fair trial consistent with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

  • While the court could not say that petitioner was denied due process by the trial judge's refusal to take precautions against the influence of pretrial publicity alone, the trial judge's later rulings had to be considered against the setting in which the trial was held. In light of this background, the court believed that the arrangements made by the trial court with the news media caused petitioner to be deprived of that judicial serenity and calm to which he was entitled. 
  • There was no doubt that the deluge of publicity reached at least some of the jury. 
  • The trial court did not fulfill his duty to protect petitioner from the inherently prejudicial publicity that saturated the community and to control disruptive influences in the courtroom.


The court reversed the denial of petitioner's habeas petition. The case was remanded to the federal district court with instructions to issue the writ and order that petitioner be released from custody unless the State put him to its charges again within a reasonable time.

Recommended Supplements for Criminal Procedure Criminal Procedure: Examples & Explanations, Sixth Edition
Emanuel Law Outline: Criminal Procedure

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