The defendants were convicted of murder. The only evidence offered against the defendants were confessions obtained from them through various forms of torture. For example, one of the defendants was repeatedly hung by the neck from a tree in an attempt to get him to confess. He ultimately confessed to the crime only after he was beaten and threatened with continued beatings. Two other defendants confessed only after they were laid over chairs and had their backs cut to pieces with a leather strap.
Whether the defendants’ convictions, which rested solely upon confessions secured by violence, were valid under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
No. The convictions were not obtained in a fundamentally fair way.
While states are allowed some latitude in regulating the procedures of their courts, they are still required to comply with the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. “The rack and torture chamber may not be substituted for the witness stand.” In this case, the methods used by the government to obtain the confessions were so egregious that they deprived the defendants of their right to the due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. As stated by the Court: “It would be difficult to conceive of methods more revolting to the sense of justice than those taken to procure the confessions” in this case.
297 U.S. 278, 56 S. Ct. 461 (1936)