Free Press v. Fair Trial: Supreme Court Decisions since 1807

By Douglas S. Campbell | Go to book overview
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U.S. ex rel. Darcy v. Handy

United States of America, ex rel. David Darcy v. Earl D. Handy, Warden of Bucks County Prison, Dr. Fred S. Baldi, Warden of the Western State Penitentiary, and Carl H. Fleckenstine, United States Marshal for the Middle District of Pennsylvania Docket No. 1956-323 351 U.S. 454, 100 L.Ed. 1331, 76 S.Ct. 965 ( 1956) Argued May 1 and 2, 1956. Decided June 11, 1956.


Background

By 1956, the Court had addressed for nearly a century the problems arising from extrajudicial publicity, with most of the attention focusing on pretrial news coverage, although some consideration had been given to publicity generated during a trial. This case raises a new question related to the conflict between the free press and a fair trial. Darcy claims that publicity, not about his own trial, but from a previous trial of two others convicted of committing the same crime that he is being tried for, unconstitutionally prejudiced his jury against him. The new question never before addressed by the Court, then, is this: Can publicity about the trial of one person prejudice jurors participating in the trial of another person?


Circumstances

At about 11:30 P.M. on December 22, 1947, David Darcy, 22, Harold Foster, 23, Harry Zeitz, 18, and Felix Capone, 16, arrived at the Feasterville Tavern located at the junction of Churchville-Newtown-Bustletown Roads, in the Village of Feasterville, Lower Southampton Township, near Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Darcy, Foster, and Zeitz, each armed with a revolver, entered the tavern while Capone served as a lookout. During the robbery Darcy fired two shots and engaged in a scuffle with Allen Hellerman and Edward Wunsch. Zeitz and Foster also used their guns during

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