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Law School Case Brief

Chambers v. Florida - 309 U.S. 227, 60 S. Ct. 472 (1940)

Rule:

As assurance against ancient evils, our country, in order to preserve the blessings of liberty, wrote into its basic law the requirement, among others, that the forfeiture of the lives, liberties or property of people accused of crime can only follow if procedural safeguards of due process have been obeyed. 

Facts:

defendants Williamson, Chambers and Woodward were sentenced to death pursuant to murder convictions, and the Supreme Court of Florida affirmed. They argued that the confessions on which the judgments and sentences were based were not voluntary and had been obtained by coercion and duress in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment

Issue:

Did the proceedings in which confessions were utilized, and which culminated in sentences of death upon defendants fail to afford the safeguard of that due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The certiorari, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the practices that led to defendants' confessions were unconstitutional. For five days, they were mistreated, physically threatened, and subjected to interrogations culminating in an all-night examination without formal charges being brought and without the ability to see family, a friend, or an attorney. The Court found that the circumstances of the confessions violated the due process requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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