JOHNSON V. ZERBST, 304 U. S. 458 (1938)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458 (1938)

Johnson v. Zerbst

No. 699

Argued April 4, 1938

Decided May 23, 1938

304 U.S. 458


1. A person charged with crime in a federal court is entitled by the Sixth Amendment to the assistance of counsel for his defense. P. 304 U. S. 462.

2. This right may be waived, but the waiver must be an intelligent one, and whether there was such must depend upon the particular facts and circumstances, including background, experience, and conduct of accused. P. 304 U. S. 464.

3. It is a duty of a federal court in the trial of a criminal case to protect the right of the accused to counsel, and, if he has no counsel, to determine whether he has intelligently and competently waived the right. It would be fitting that such determination be made a matter of record. P. 304 U. S. 465.

4. If the accused is not represented by counsel and has not competently and intelligently waived his constitutional right, the Sixth Amendment stands as a jurisdictional bar to a valid conviction and sentence depriving him of his life or his liberty. P. 304 U. S. 468.

5. The question whether the assistance of counsel was intelligently and competently waived by the prisoner at his trial may be determined in habeas corpus proceedings on proofs aliunde. P. 304 U. S. 467.

92 F.2d 748, reversed.

CERTIORARI, 303 U.S. 629, to review the affirmance of a judgment of the District Court discharging a writ of habeas corpus. See 13 F.Supp. 253.


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