Criminal Justice: New Headache for State Courts

Shortly after sticking up a Brooklyn hotel in 1960, Nathan Jackson fatally shot a pursuing policeman. Shot twice himself, Jackson got to a hospital. There, say detectives, he admitted: "I shot the colored cop. I got the drop on him." At his trial, however, Jackson testified that he had been drugged, refused water, and was in such pain that he could not remember what he said.

Had the confession clearly been coerced, the trial judge would have ruled it inadmissible. But the facts were in dispute. Consistent with New York practice, the judge submitted the issue to the...