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Suttles v. Davis

: September 10, 1954.

LOUIS M. SUTTLES, APPELLANT,
v.
COLONEL JAMES W. DAVIS, COMMANDANT, UNITED STATES DISCIPLINARY BARRACKS, FORT LEAVENWORTH, KANSAS, APPELLEE. CHASTINE BEVERLY, APPELLANT, V. COLONEL JAMES W. DAVIS, COMMANDANT, UNITED STATES DISCIPLINARY BARRACKS, FORT LEAVENWORTH, KANSAS, APPELLEE. JAMES L. RIGGINS, APPELLANT, V. COLONEL JAMES W. DAVIS, COMMANDANT, UNITED STATES DISCIPLINARY BARRACKS, FORT LEAVENWORTH, KANSAS, APPELLEE.



Savage

Before BRATTON and MURRAH, Circuit Judges, and SAVAGE, District Judge.

SAVAGE, District Judge.

Petitioners, while serving in the army and stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, were found guilty after a joint trial by general court-martial of premeditated murder and two robberies and each was given a death sentence. They have been confined at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, pending execution of the sentences.

The sentences were upheld by army reviewing authorities, affirmed by the United States Court of Military Appeals and confirmed by the President. Having exhausted all remedies available to them under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, petitioners Suttles and Beverly joined in filing a petition, and petitioner Riggins filed a separate petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court of Kansas. After a full hearing in the District Court, the petitions were dismissed and this appeal followed.

Petitioners assert that the sentences are void because they were deprived of constitutional rights guaranteed by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. More specifically, they contend that, (1) they were denied effective assistance of counsel, (2) they were not advised of their right to file a motion for new trial, and (3) their confessions were obtained by coercion and were therefore inadmissible in evidence.

At the outset it should be recognized that the range of inquiry in acting upon applications for habeas corpus from persons confined by sentence of military courts is more narrow than in civil cases. Hiatt v. Brown, 339 U.S. 103, 70 S. Ct. 495, 94 L. Ed. 691; Whelchel v. McDonald, 340 U.S. 122, 71 S. Ct. 146, 95 L. Ed. 141; Burns v. Wilson, 346 U.S. 137, 73 S. Ct. 1045, 97 L. Ed. 1508; Easley v. Hunter, 10 Cir., 209 F.2d 483.

In Hiatt v. Brown, supra [339 U.S. 103, 70 S. Ct. 498], the court limited the collateral inquiry to a determination of the jurisdiction of the sentencing court, as follows:

"* * * It is well settled that 'by habeas corpus the civil courts exercise no supervisory or correcting power over the proceedings of a court-martial * * *. The single inquiry, the test, is jurisdiction.' In re Grimley, 1890, 137 U.S. 147, 150, 11 S. Ct. 54, 34 L. Ed. 636. In this case the court-martial had jurisdiction of the person accused and the offense charged, and acted within its lawful powers. The correction of any errors it may have committed is for the military authorities which are alone authorized to review its decision. In re Yamashita, 1946, 327 U.S. 1, 8-9, 66 S. Ct. 340, 344, 345, 90 L. Ed. 499; Swaim v. United States, supra, 165 U.S. [553] at page 562, 17 S. Ct. [448] at page 451, 41 L. Ed. 823."

In Burns v. Wilson, supra, the court to some extent broadens the scope of review. It is there said to be the limited function of the civil courts in military habeas corpus cases, in coping with allegations of deprivation of basic constitutional rights, to determine whether the military courts have given fair consideration to the claims. Any such claims found not to have been fairly considered by the military courts may be adjudged on the merits by the civil courts.

This court's interpretation of Burns v. Wilson, supra, is set out in Easley v. Hunter, supra, 209 F.2d at page 487:

"* * * In other words, as we understand the Burns decision, it does no more than hold that a military court must consider questions relating to the guarantees afforded an accused by the Constitution and when this is done, the civil courts will not review its action."

The contentions made by petitioners that they were denied effective assistance of counsel and that they were not advised of their right to file a motion for new trial are interrelated and will be discussed together.

Two members of the Judge Advocate General Corps were appointed to represent petitioners at the court-martial. In addition, pursuant to the request of petitioner Riggins, Lieutenant Cracraft, also a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps, was appointed as his individual counsel.

At the time of arraignment, petitioners were apparently satisfied with their counsel and with the arrangements for trial. It is now argued that inadequacy of counsel is demonstrated by a failure to make proper objections to certain testimony received in evidence; by failure of their trial counsel to consult with them after their transfer to the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; by failure of appellate defense counsel to personally interview them and, ...


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