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Smith v. Murray

United States Supreme Court
477 U.S. 527, 106 S.Ct. 2661, 91 L.Ed.2d 434 (1986)


Smith (defendant) was convicted of murder. At the request of defense counsel, the trial court appointed a private psychiatrist to evaluate Smith. During his examination, Smith eventually told the psychiatrist about a prior deviant sexual act he had committed. The psychiatrist diagnosed Smith with “sociopathic personality, sexual deviation.” The psychiatrist never told Smith that the sessions would not remain confidential, and he forwarded all the information to the trial court. Over Smith’s objections, during sentencing, the state called the psychiatrist to testify to his findings and to what Smith had told him. Smith was sentenced to death. On appeal, the state supreme court affirmed Smith’s conviction and sentence. While he raised several different claims, Smith did not raise the issue of the inadmissibility of the psychiatrist’s testimony. Later, Smith’s attorney explained that he purposefully excluded that claim because, based on state law at the time, he did not believe the claim would be successful. Smith then petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus from the state courts. Here, for the first time since his objection at trial, Smith argued that the admission of the psychiatrist’s testimony violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The court held that Smith had lost his chance to make this argument when he failed to argue it in the earlier proceedings. Smith then sought a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. The petition was dismissed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (O’Connor, J.)

Dissent (Stevens, J.)

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