The Hughes Court (1930–41)

Criminal Justice

In what Florida case did the Hughes Court invalidate coerced confessions for a second time?

The Hughes Court unanimously reversed the death-penalty convictions of several African American men in Broward County, Florida, in Chambers v. Florida (1940). Law enforcement officials, upset over the robbery and murder of an elderly white man, began a pattern of rounding up and questioning over a period of hours, the African American men in the county. Four men, after a week of repeatedly denying the crime, finally confessed after hours and hours of all-night questioning.

Writing for the Court, Justice Hugo Black wrote: “To permit human lives to be forfeited upon confessions thus obtained would make of the constitutional requirement of due process of law a meaningless symbol.”


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