A native of Victorville, California, born in 1943, Whitney began smoking at age eight and drinking at ten.
By age 12, he was a veteran of several armed robberies, and five years later, in 1960, he launched a crosscountry murder spree, notching the handle of his stolen .22-caliber pistol for each of the seven victims he killed between California and Florida.
The first murder, of Victorville gas station attendant Jimmy Ryan, was committed on February 12, 1960. "I did one," Whitney explained, "and I thought I just might as well go on. I planned to kill maybe a dozen or so. I was fed up. I was broke. I thought I'd better get some money somehow."
Eight days later, he murdered two homosexuals -- including a skid row derelict and a black chef -- in Phoenix, Arizona, stealing the chef's car for the drive to Tucson, where Whitney reverted to type by killing another gas station attendant. His car ran out of gas in Tombstone, and he started thumbing rides, arriving in Miami, Florida, by February 24.
On February 29, after five days of job hunting, Whitney murdered Ken Mezzarno at a Miami gas station, striking again the same day at another station, where he murdered 53-year-old Arthur Keeler.
Three days later, he pumped four bullets into Jack Beecher in another gas station holdup, but this time his victim survived, treating police to a description of the red-haired bandit and his car.
Police traced Whitney to his motel on March 4, but their man was already running. That day, he abducted Virginia Selby, a Hialeah housewife, from the parking lot at Sears. He drove her to a lonely site in northern Palm Beach County, where she grabbed a claw hammer and gashed his forehead before Whitney shot her to death. Arrested by a posse nine hours later, Whitney was tried and convicted of murder.
The jury's failure to recommend leniency made a death sentence automatic, and he came within two days of execution before the Supreme Court granted an indefinite stay on July 16, 1963.
In 1972, Whitney's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia
of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans
389 U.S. 138
88 S.Ct. 314
19 L.Ed.2d 343
Dennis Manaford WHITNEY, petitioner,
STATE OF FLORIDA.
October Term, 1967.
November 13, 1967
On Writ of
Certiorari to the District Court of Appeal of Florida, Third
The writ is dismissed as
improvidently granted without prejudice to an application for a writ
of habeas corpus in the appropriate United States District Court.
Mr. Justice DOUGLAS,
The question presented here is
whether Florida has deprived petitioner of equal protection or due
process of law by summarily dismissing his collateral attack on a
state criminal conviction without conducting an evidentiary hearing.
Because of the increasing tide of habeas corpus petitions brought by
prisoners (see Price v. Johnston, 334 U.S. 266, 293, 68 S.Ct. 1049,
92 L.Ed. 1356)—many of whom find they must turn to federal courts to
obtain a hearing—the question is of considerable importance.
I assume that the Federal
Constitution does not compel the States to provide any remedy for
collateral attack of criminal convictions. Cf. Townsend v. Sain, 372
U.S. 293, 313, n. 9, 83 S.Ct. 745, 9 L.Ed.2d 770; Griffin v. People
of State of Illinois, 351 U.S. 12, 18, 76 S.Ct. 585, 100 L.Ed. 891.
But when a State makes available a means for review, it is held to a
'constitutional requirement of substantial equality and fair process.'
Anders v. State of Claifornia, 386 U.S. 738, 744, 87 S.Ct. 1396, 18
It may not discriminate
arbitrarily between persons applying for relief (e. g., Burns v.
State of Ohio, 360 U.S. 252, 79 S.Ct. 1164, 3 L.Ed.2d 1209), and it
must adhere to the requirements of due process. Swenson v. Bosler,
386 U.S. 258, 260, 87 S.Ct. 996, 18 L.Ed.2d 33. Though these rules
were primarily developed with reference to appellate review, we have
held them applicable with equal force to state post-conviction
proceedings. Smith v. Bennett, 365 U.S. 708, 81 S.Ct. 895, 6 L.Ed.2d
By Rule 1 of the Florida Rules of
Criminal Procedure, F.S.A., ch. 924 Appendix, Florida has provided a
means of collateral attack.
In his application petitioner
alleged that extensive pretrial publicity—including television
broadcasts of confessions given by him—prevented selection of a fair
and impartial jury. Petitioner further alleged that he asked his
trial counsel to request a change of venue, but counsel refused to
do so. The Florida District Court of Appeal held that no evidentiary
hearing was necessary because venue objections could only be raised
at trial and because venue was res judicata under the
judgment in a prior collateral attack by petitioner (see Whitney v.
Cochran, 152 So.2d 727, 730 (Fla.)) that representation by trial
counsel was adequate and not a farce or sham.
characterization and disposition of petitioner's allegations avoid
the basic issue presented. Under Entsminger v. State of Iowa, 386
U.S. 748, 87 S.Ct. 1402, 18 L.Ed.2d 501, a defendant who
specifically asked his attorney to take a plenary appeal was denied
a constitutional right when the attorney took only a truncated
appeal. The allegations of petitioner here clearly constitute a
prima facie case of violation of this principle.
My Brother HARLAN characterizes
this crime as 'a particularly brutal murder'—and so it was. But that
does not alter the underlying constitutional question whether the
atmosphere of the community had been so saturated by adverse
publicity as to deprive the state trial of the constitutional
requirement of due process. Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333, 86
S.Ct. 1507, 16 L.Ed.2d 600. My Brother HARLAN states that from this
record it is 'inescapable' that petitioner's trial counsel 'deliberately'
chose to try the case before a jury that may have been exposed to
petitioner's televised confessions. But with all respect, that is no
answer to the present constitutional claim. Until we know the extent
and degree of saturation of the public mind with the TV films, it is
impossible to say whether or not counsel's failure to obtain a
change of venue was harmless error under the ruling of Chapman v.
State of California, 386 U.S. 18, 87 S.Ct. 824, 17 L.Ed.2d 705.
Far more than mere trial tactics
and strategy is involved. In such a case the denial of the
defendant's rights is not cured by outstanding representation by
counsel during the balance of proceedings. It is no answer for the
Florida courts to say counsel never moved at trial for a transfer to
a county not saturated with pretrial publicity; for this failure of
counsel is the very heart of the wrong allegedly done to petitioner.
Nor are res judicata principles applicable, for as I read
Whitney v. Cochran the Entsminger right-to-counsel issue was
neither raised nor decided.
I would vacate the
judgment and remand to the Florida courts so that the State may give
petitioner the evidentiary hearing to which he is entitled. We
needlessly burden the federal regime
when we do not insist that Florida, which has provided a remedy,
have the evidentiary hearing which will determine the nature and
extent of the pretrial publicity and whether it was trivial or
Mr. Justice HARLAN, whom Mr.
Justice BLACK joins, dissenting.
I would affirm the judgment of the
state court. I can find no sound basis for this Court's not reaching
the merits of the questions brought here for review, even though I
believe that the writ should not have issued in the first place. Nor
do I believe that a federal habeas corpus proceeding should be
encouraged, which is the implicit effect of the Court's 'without
prejudice' dismissal, or, as my Brother DOUGLAS suggests, that the
case should be remanded to the state court for a hearing.
Petitioner was convicted of a
particularly brutal murder, committed in the course of an armed
robbery. At trial, with advice of counsel, he entered into a written
stipulation conceded to be the virtual equivalent of a guilty plea,
confessing the murder. Consequently, the only question argued to the
jury by counsel was whether it would recommend mercy; the jury
declined to do so, and a sentence of death was imposed.
Prior to his trial, petitioner had
confessed to five other homicides and one attempted homicide. These
confessions were not referred to at trial. They were, however,
allegedly given wide publicity by television and radio stations in
the area where trial occurred. Contending that this publicity had
deprived him of the right to trial before an impartial jury,
petitioner brought this collateral proceeding in the state courts.
District Court of Appeal, rejecting the argument that petitioner's
claim was foreclosed by his failure to raise it in prior proceedings,
held that as a matter of state law the principle of res judicata
is applicable, in criminal cases, 'only to those items actually
raised in the prior proceedings.' Whitney v. State, 184 So.2d 207,
at 209 (Fla.). (Emphasis in original.) On the merits the court
rejected petitioner's claim, relying heavily on the fact that trial
counsel had made no motion for a change of venue, and had not even
undertaken to exercise all of his peremptory challenges. Cf. Beck v.
Washington, 369 U.S. 541, 557-558, 82 S.Ct. 955, 8 L.Ed.2d 98.
The record also reveals that
counsel conducted a vigorous voir dire during which, although
for obvious reasons no mention of other crimes was made each juror
represented that he could and would judge the case solely on the
basis of what was presented in court. The conclusion that trial
counsel deliberately chose to risk the mercy of a local jury, rather
than court more imponderable hazards elsewhere, seems inescapable.
After trial, new counsel sought to
depict this perfectly understandable piece of strategy as but the
product of incompetence so gross as to give rise to a constitutional
claim that the petitioner was deprived of the effective assistance
of counsel. In light of the record, and particularly defense
counsel's extensive summation, which clearly evinces as effort to
make the best of a hopeless case by trying to save defendant from
the death penalty, the claim now made is little short of frivolous.
I can find in this straightforward
train of events no room for questioning the validity of this state
conviction from a federal constitutional standpoint, or for further
prolonging the case.
SEX: M RACE: W TYPE: N MOTIVE:
MO: Shot robbery victims;
kidnapped and bludgeoned one woman.
DISPOSITION: Condemned on two
counts in Fla., 1960; commuted, 1972.