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Beecher v. Alabama

389 U.S. 35 (1967)

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Beecher v. Alabama

United States Supreme Court

389 U.S. 35 (1967)

Facts

Beecher (defendant) was an African American prisoner who escaped from a prison work crew in Alabama. The day after Beecher’s escape, a White woman was found dead nearby. The next day, Beecher was spotted in Tennessee, where police officers then chased Beecher into a field and shot him in the leg. As Beecher lay on the ground, the police chief held a loaded gun to his face while another officer held a gun to the side of his head. The police chief asked Beecher whether he had raped and killed a White woman, which Beecher denied. The chief then threatened to kill Beecher if he did not confess. The other officer fired his gun next to Beecher’s head, and Beecher confessed. Later that day, Beecher signed extradition papers after being told that a gang of people was coming to kill him. Beecher was taken back to Alabama, where he received treatment for his gunshot wound in the prison hospital. Beecher’s leg, which was eventually amputated, swelled and became so painful that he was given morphine injections every four hours. Five days after his Tennessee confession, and less than one hour after receiving a morphine injection, Beecher was questioned by two investigators who prepared two confessions for Beecher to sign. Before the investigators questioned Beecher, the medical assistant in charge of Beecher’s care had told him to cooperate with the investigators and told the investigators to let him know if Beecher did not furnish the information they wanted. Beecher signed the confessions and was tried and convicted of murder. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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