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Court Documents
Dissenting Opinion

United States Supreme Court

404 U.S. 477

Don Richard LEGO, Petitioner,  v.  John TWOMEY, Warden.

 Argued: Nov. 11, 1971. --- Decided: Jan 12, 1972


Following a pretrial suppression hearing at which conflicting evidence was presented as to the voluntariness of a confession that petitioner had given the police, the trial judge, presumably applying the Illinois preponderance-of-the-evidence standard, held the confession admissible, and it was introduced into evidence at the trial, which resulted in petitioner's conviction. The judge had instructed the jury as to the prosecution's burden of proving guilt but did not instruct that the jury had to find the confession voluntary before it could be used in reaching its verdict. In a habeas corpus proceeding petitioner challenged his conviction. The District Court denied relief, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Petitioner contends, relying upon In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 25 L.Ed.2d 368, that the trial judge should have found the confession voluntary beyond a reasonable doubt before admitting it into evidence, or, alternatively, that the admissibility of the confession as evidence in a criminal trial (quite apart from its probative value) had to be determined by a reasonable-doubt standard to protect the values that exclusionary rules are designed to serve. Petitioner also urges that, even though the trial judge ruled on his coercion claim, he was entitled under Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145, 88 S.Ct. 1444, 20 L.Ed.2d 491, to have the jury decide that issue anew. Held:

1. The hearing on the voluntariness of a confession required by this Court's decision in Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 12 L.Ed.2d 908, is not designed to implement the presumption of innocence and enhance the reliability of jury verdicts, but to prevent the use of a coerced confession as violative of due process quite apart from its truth or falsity. Consequently, determining the admissibility of a confession by a preponderance of the evidence is not inconsistent with the mandate of In re Winship, supra. Pp. 482-487.

2. Petitioner has not demonstrated that admissibility rulings based on the preponderance-of-evidence standard are unreliable or that imposition of any higher standard under expanded exclusionary rules would be sufficiently productive to outweigh the public interest in having probative evidence available to juries. Pp. 487-489.

3. The procedure followed here comported with the requirements of Jackson, supra, and petitioner was not entitled to have the voluntariness issue which had been resolved by the trial judge also submitted to a jury for its separate consideration. Nor did Duncan, supra, change the rule that determining the admissibility of evidence is a function of the court rather than of the jury. P. 489-490.


Nathan Lewin, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

James B. Zagel, Chicago, Ill., for respondent.

Mr. Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).