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Beecher v. Alabama

408 U.S. 234 (1972)

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Beecher v. Alabama

United States Supreme Court

408 U.S. 234 (1972)

Facts

Beecher (defendant), an African American escapee from an Alabama prison work crew, was convicted of murdering a White woman. At his trial, two coerced confessions were admitted into evidence. The first confession was made at the time of Beecher’s arrest, after he had been shot in the leg and threatened with death. The second confession was made five days later in the form of two signed statements. Beecher signed the statements while in a prison hospital, receiving frequent morphine injections for the pain caused by his gunshot wound. The United States Supreme Court reversed, holding that Beecher’s confessions had been coerced and therefore should not have been used as evidence in his trial. Three months after the reversal of his conviction, Beecher was reindicted. At his second trial, a third confession was admitted into evidence. This confession was made one hour after Beecher’s arrest, while he was being treated in the hospital for the gunshot wound that eventually led to the amputation of his leg. The doctor treating Beecher gave him two large morphine injections and then asked Beecher why he had committed the crime. According to the doctor, Beecher made an oral confession. Only the doctor heard the confession, and Beecher testified that he had felt drugged and did not remember anything after receiving the injections. Beecher was convicted of murder at his second trial. On appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court held that Beecher’s confession had been voluntary and therefore had been properly admitted into evidence. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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