Rideau v. Louisiana (1963)

In this case the court reversed the death penalty of defendant Wilbert Rideau, who was convicted of armed robbery, kidnapping, and murder. The defendant was accused of kidnapping three employees and killing one of them while robbing a bank in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 1961. The Supreme Court decided that his right to due process had been violated because the state trial court didn't grant a change of venue. A lot of people in Calcasieu Parish, including members of the jury, had seen a taped interview that aired three times on TV, during which Rideau confessed to the sheriff, without the benefits of a counsel present, that he had committed the alleged crimes. Three of the jurors said during voir dire that they had seen the taped confession at least once. Also, two of the jurors were deputy sheriffs of the parish in which the trial occurred. The Supreme Court intensely criticized the trial proceedings:

"The case before us does not involve police brutality. The kangaroo court proceedings in this case involved a more subtle but no less real deprivation of due process of law. Under our Constitution's guarantee of due process, a person accused of committing a crime is vouchsafed basic minimal rights. Among these are the right to counsel, the right to plead not guilty, and the right to be tried in a courtroom presided over by a judge. Yet in this case the people of Calcasieu Parish saw and heard, not once, but three times, a "trial" of Rideau in jail, presided over by a sheriff, where there was no lawyer to advise Rideau of his right to stand mute (footnotes omitted)."

Click here for the complete Supreme Court opinion.