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SANDERS V. UNITED STATES, 373 U. S. 1 (1963)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Sanders v. United States, 373 U.S. 1 (1963)

Sanders v. United States

No. 202

Argued February 25, 1963

Decided April 29, 1963

373 U.S. 1


Arrested on a charge of robbing a federally insured bank in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113 (a) and brought into a Federal District Court, petitioner declined assistance of counsel, signed a waiver of indictment, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to imprisonment. Subsequently, he filed in the sentencing Court a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 for his release, alleging that the "indictment" was invalid, that he had been denied assistance of counsel, and that he had been intimidated and coerced into pleading guilty without counsel and without knowledge of the charges against him. This motion was denied without a hearing, on the ground that it stated only conclusions, and no facts upon which conclusions could be based; but the Court added that the files and records showed conclusively that petitioner was entitled to no relief. Later, petitioner filed a second motion under § 2255, alleging that at the time of his trial and sentence, he had been mentally incompetent as a result of narcotics administered to him while he was in jail pending trial, and he alleged specific facts in support of this claim. This motion was denied without a hearing on the ground that petitioner should have raised the issue of mental incompetency at the time of his first motion.

Held: The Court should have granted a hearing on the second motion. Pp. 373 U. S. 2-23.

(a) Controlling weight may be given to denial of a prior application for relief under § 2255 only if (1) the same ground presented chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 373 U. S. 2

in the subsequent application was determined adversely to the applicant on the prior application, (2) the prior determination was on the merits, and (3) the ends of justice would not be served by reaching the merits of the subsequent application. Pp. 373 U. S. 15-17.

(b) No matter how many prior applications for relief under § 2255 a prisoner has made, controlling weight may not be given to denial of prior applications if they were not adjudicated on the merits or if a different ground is presented by the new application. In such circumstances, consideration of the merits of the new application can be avoided only if there has been an abuse of the remedy, and this must be pleaded by the Government. Pp. 373 U. S. 17-19.

(c) In this case, the Court should have granted a hearing on the second application, because the first application was not adjudicated on the merits and the facts on which the second application was predicated were outside the record. Pp. 373 U. S. 19-20.

(d) On remand, a hearing will be required, but it will not automatically become necessary to produce petitioner at the hearing to enable him to testify. The Court will have discretion to ascertain whether the claim is substantial before granting a full evidentiary hearing, and it will be open to respondent to attempt to to show that petitioner's failure to claim mental incompetency in his first motion was an abuse of the motion remedy. Pp. 373 U. S. 20-22.

297 F.2d 735, reversed and case remanded.

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