encumbered by tubes, needles, and breathing apparatus. He was, in
short, at the complete mercy of (the police officer), unable to
escape or resist... In this debilitated and helpless condition, (he)
clearly expressed his wish not to be interrogated... the statements
at issue were thus the result of virtually continuous questioning of
a seriously and painfully wounded man on the edge of consciousness."
The confession, then, was "not the product of his free and rational
Instead, "weakened by pain and shock... his will was simply
c. Townsend v. Sain, 372 US 293, 9 L.Ed.2d 770 83SCt 745 (1963) involved a
suspect who had been injected by the police physician with "truth serum." The
Supreme Court explained that a confession "which is not the product of a free
intellect" is not admissible. Under the facts of this case, the court stated
that "it is difficult to imagine a situation in which a confession would be
less the product of a free intellect, less voluntary than when brought about by
a drug having the effect of a truth serum.
d. In Ashcraft v. Tennessee, 322 US 142 88 L.Ed. 1192 64 SCt 921 (1944),
the suspect was questioned from 7:00 P.M.
Saturday evening until 9:30 A.M.
Monday morning (when he finally confessed). Although the police said that they
had given him a five-minute break during that period, the Supreme Court was not
impressed, and reversed the conviction, explaining:
"We think a situation such as that here shown... is so inherently
coercive that its very existence is irreconcilable with the
possession of mental freedom by a lone suspect against whom its full
coercive force is brought to bear.
It is inconceivable that any
court of justice in the land, conducted as our courts are... would
permit prosecutors serving in relays to keep a (suspect) under
continuous cross-examination for 36 hours without rest or sleep in
an effort to extract a 'voluntary' confession."
e. In Brooks v. Florida, 389 US 413, 19 L.Ed.2d 643 88 SCt 541 (1967), the
suspect had been confined in a cell with no window, bed, furnishings, or
facilities, for 14 days. His diet was "peas and carrots in a soup form," which
was given to him three times a day in four-ounce servings. He also was given
eight ounces of water a day. He was stripped naked before being thrown into
On the 15th day, he was taken from the cell and questioned. The
court held the confession to be involuntary, labeling it "a shocking display of
barbarism." A somewhat similar situation occurred in U.S. v. O'Such, 37 CMR
157 (CMA, 1967). The suspect was confined "in a box, more or less," stripped
to his underwear. The box was "seven feet, five inches in depth and four feet,
ten inches wide." The only furniture was a wooden board, which was "a section
out of a bowling alley." At night, "a flashlight was... played on him at five-
minute intervals." He could not lie down "between reveille and retreat." He
was so confined for several days. The court held his subsequent confession to
be involuntary, a product of coercion.