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LOPER V. BETO, 405 U. S. 473 (1972)

U.S. Supreme Court

Loper v. Beto, 405 U.S. 473 (1972)

Loper v. Beto

No. 70-5388

Argued January 13, 1972

Decided March 22, 1972

405 U.S. 473


For the purpose of impeaching petitioner's credibility, the prosecutor in petitioner's 1947 rape trial was permitted to interrogate him about his previous criminal record. Petitioner admitted four felony convictions during the period 1931-1940. He was found guilty by the jury and was sentenced to a term of 50 years. He filed a petition for habeas corpus in Federal District Court alleging that the previous convictions were constitutionally invalid under Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U. S. 335, because he had been denied the assistance of counsel. The District Court denied relief, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, stating that the

"fact that there are possible infirmities in the evidence does not necessarily raise an issue of constitutional proportions which would require reversal."

Held: The judgment is vacated and the case is remanded to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings. Pp. 405 U. S. 480-485.

440 F.2d 934, vacated and remanded.

MR. JUSTICE STEWART, joined by MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, and MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, concluded that the use of convictions constitutionally invalid under Gideon v. Wainwright, supra, to impeach a defendant's credibility deprives him of due process of law. Pp. 405 U. S. 480-483.

MR. JUSTICE WHITE concluded that, although the Court of Appeals erred, on remand, that court does not necessarily have to set petitioner's conviction aside. There remain unresolved issues: whether petitioner was represented by counsel at his earlier trials, and, if not, whether he waived counsel; and the possibility of a finding of harmless error, all of which should be considered in the first instance by the lower court. P. 405 U. S. 485.

STEWART, J., announced the Court's judgment and delivered an opinion, in which DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result, post, p. 405 U. S. 485. BURGER, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which POWELL, J., joined,

Page 405 U. S. 474

post, p. 405 U. S. 485. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 405 U. S. 494. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN and POWELL, JJ., joined, post, p. 405 U. S. 497.

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