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Quillen v. Betts

Supreme Court of Delaware

July 17, 1953

QUILLEN
v.
BETTS et al.

Prisoner brought habeas corpus proceedings against board of trustees of Sussex County to compel the admission of petitioner to bail. The Superior Court in and for Sussex County entered an order dismissing the petition, and the petitioner appealed. The Supreme Court, Southerland, C. J., held that finding of indictment charging petitioner with first degree murder created at least a prima facie presumption of guilt so that burden was on petitioner to rebut the presumption by evidence if he wished to be admitted to bail.

Order affirmed.

Page 771

[48 Del. 94] Appeal from an order of the Superior Court in and for Sussex County dismissing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to admit petitioner to bail. Affirmed.

Everett F. Warrington and Daniel J. Layton, Jr., of Georgetown, for appellant.

H. Albert Young, Atty. Gen., Januar D. Bove, Jr. and John J. McNeilly, Deputy Attys. Gen., for appellees.

SOUTHERLAND, C. J., and WOLCOTT and TUNNELL, JJ., sitting.

SOUTHERLAND, Chief Justice.

This appeal concerns the admission to bail of a person indicted for a capital offense.

[48 Del. 95] The facts and the proceedings below are as follows:

On December 8, 1952, Quillen, the petitioner below and appellant here (herein called ‘ defendant’ ), shot and wounded one Banks, was arrested and charged with assault with intent to murder, and was admitted to bail. On January 2, 1953, Banks died and on January 5 defendant was charged with murder in the first degree. It was arranged that the Superior Court should hear and determine the matter of bail. On January 6 defendant petitioned the court to be admitted to bail, asserting that there was absence of proof that death was the result of the wound inflicted by him, and that there were facts indicating that he was at most guilty of manslaughter. The Deputy Attorney General did not oppose the application, apparently because the State's investigation of the matter was then incomplete. Defendant was thereupon admitted to bail in the sum of $10,000.

On February 2 an indictment for murder in the first degree was returned against defendant. The Deputy Attorney General moved to commit the defendant to jail, but after a discussion withdrew the motion, apparently believing that if he pressed it he would assume the burden of sustaining it with evidence of the facts. The case was then continued to the April Term, and defendant remained at liberty on the bail theretofore given.

At the April Term defendant moved for another continuance. On April 9, the court denied the motion and set the trial for May 18. The President Judge then inquired whether the State had any application respecting the matter of bail. After some explanatory remarks the Deputy Attorney General said that he had not. Subsequently various motions were filed by defendant, including a motion to quash, which was denied on May 16. On the same day a motion to continue the case to the June Term was granted. Thereupon the State moved to recall the bail and commit the defendant to jail.

The State's motion was set for May 20 and was heard on that date. The court ruled that the indictment had raised a strong presumption of guilt and that it was the duty of the defendant [48 Del. 96] to go forward with evidence to overcome the presumption. Defendant's counsel were not ready to present evidence, but did not ask for an adjournment. They took the position that the ‘ attitude’ of the Deputy Attorney General and the circumstances of the case had the effect of rebutting the presumption, and that the burden was on the State to support its motion. The court then discharged the bail and committed the defendant to jail.

On the same day defendant filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 10 Del.C. § 6911, averring that his commitment was illegal ‘ because of the lack of positive proof and great presumption of his guilt, and further because his admission to bail before and after indictment was consented to by the Attorney General,’ and that under these circumstances he had the constitutional right to be admitted to bail. A hearing on this petition was had on May 22, and the petition was dismissed. By ...


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