The prisoners filed a petition under the Illinois
Post-Conviction Hearing Act, in order to obtain a certified copy
of the entire record for their appeal.
The state supreme court affirmed the dismissal of their petition
because the charges raised no substantial state or federal
On certiorari, the prisoners contended that the
failure to provide them with the needed
transcript violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses
of U.S. Const. amend. XIV.
The court held that while the state court was not required by
the federal constitution to provide appellate courts or a right
to appellate review, because the state did grant appellate
review at all stages of the proceedings, the Due Process and
Equal Protection Clause protected the prisoners from invidious
The court held that destitute defendants must be afforded as
adequate appellate review as defendants who had money enough to
buy the transcripts.
The court vacated and remanded the state supreme court's order.
The Court held in Griffin that a state must furnish an indigent
criminal defendant with a free trial transcript if such a
transcript is necessary for "adequate and effective appellate
review" of his conviction.
Justice Black, joined by Chief Justice Warren and Justices
Douglas and Clark
Guaranties of due process and equal protection
[Our] constitutional guaranties of due process and equal
protection both call for procedures in criminal trials which
allow no invidious discriminations between persons and different
groups of persons.
Paying costs is irrelevant to innocence
Plainly the ability to pay costs in advance bears no rational
relationship to a defendant's guilt or innocence and could not
be used as an excuse to deprive a defendant of a fair trial.
Cannot discriminate when denying appellant review
[It] is true that a State is not required by the Federal
Constitution to provide appellate courts or a right to appellate
review at all.
But that is not to say that a State that does grant appellate
review can do so in a way that discriminates against some
convicted defendants on account of their poverty ....
Most states recognize importance of appellant review
"All of the States now provide some method of appeal from
criminal convictions, recognizing the importance of appellate
review to a correct adjudication of guilt or innocence.
Statistics show that a substantial proportion of criminal
convictions are reversed by state appellate courts.
Reasoning - may lose their life, liberty or property because of
Thus to deny adequate appellate review to the poor means that
many of them may lose their life, liberty or property because of
unjust convictions which appellate courts would set aside.
Many States have recognized this and provided aid for convicted
defendants who have a right to appeal and need a transcript but
are unable to pay for it.
There can be no equal justice where the kind of trial a man gets
depends on the amount of money he has.
Destitute defendants must be afforded as adequate appellate
review as defendants who have money enough to buy transcripts."