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TOMKINS V. MISSOURI, 323 U. S. 485 (1945)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Tomkins v. Missouri, 323 U.S. 485 (1945)

Tomkins v. Missouri

No. 64

Argued December 12, 1944

Decided January 8, 1945

323 U.S. 485


In a petition to the Supreme Court of Missouri for a writ of habeas corpus, the petitioner, confined in a state penitentiary for life upon his plea of guilty to a charge of murder in the first degree, alleged that he was not represented by counsel, that the court did not make an effective appointment of counsel, that he did not waive his constitutional right to counsel, that he was ignorant of his right to demand counsel, and that he was incapable adequately of making his own defense. The court allowed the petitioner to proceed in forma pauperis, but denied the petition for failure to state a cause of action.


1. The allegations of the petition are here assumed to be true. Williams v. Kaiser, ante, p. 323 U. S. 471. P. 323 U. S. 487.

2. A request for counsel by one accused of a capital offense who is unable to employ counsel and incapable adequately of making his own defense is unnecessary; it is the duty of the court in such case to appoint counsel. P. 323 U. S. 487.

3. That the petition in such a case as this is not drawn with precision and clarity is not fatal where the substance of the claim is plain. P. 323 U. S. 487.

4. The nature of the offense charged against the petitioner -- who could have been found guilty of murder in the first or second degree or of manslaughter, with varying penalties -- emphasized the need of counsel. P. 323 U. S. 488.

5. The petition sufficiently alleged a deprivation of the right to counsel in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Powell v. Alabama, 287 U. S. 45. P. 323 U. S. 489.

Reversed. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 323 U. S. 486

Certiorari, 322 U.S. 725, to review an order denying a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

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