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Johns v. Smyth

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
176 F.Supp. 949 (1959)


Facts

Raleigh Johns (defendant) was convicted of the first-degree murder of Melvin Childress. Johns gave a signed statement the day after Childress was killed, admitting that Johns killed Childress with a knife. The statement also said that Childress had grabbed Johns and suggested an unnatural sexual act just before Johns killed Childress. During the trial, the prosecution (plaintiff) introduced the signed statement, and Johns did not testify. Johns’s counsel did not submit any proposed jury instructions or submit a closing argument to the jury. The jury was instructed on first- and second-degree murder but not on manslaughter. The jury convicted Johns of first-degree murder, and Johns filed a petition for habeas corpus, alleging a violation of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. During the hearing on the petition, Johns’s counsel stated that he believed Johns was guilty. According to the trial counsel, Johns had admitted that the signed statement was false. Based on the admission from Johns to his attorney, the attorney did not believe he could argue that the statement was true.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hoffman, J.)

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