Alcorta v. Texas

LOCATION: United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)
LOWER COURT: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

CITATION: 355 US 28 (1957)
ARGUED: Oct 23, 1957
DECIDED: Nov 12, 1957

Facts of the case


Media for Alcorta v. Texas

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 23, 1957 in Alcorta v. Texas

Earl Warren:

Number 139, Alvaro Alcorta, Petitioner, versus the State of Texas.

Fred A. Semaan:

Mr. Chief Justice.

Earl Warren:

Mr. Semaan.

Fred A. Semaan:

If the Court please.

This case is one of certiorari to the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas.

The decision sought to be reviewed as a denial by the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas of an application for writ of habeas corpus seeking the release of the petitioner from custody of the warden of the State Penitentiary of Texas for the reason that his conviction is void and that it was based on perjury and suppressed evidence.

Jurisdiction of the Court is invoked under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

The questions are, have the provisions of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments been violated or has an accused been afford -- afforded a fair and partial trial where (1) the prosecutor advised and encouraged the only eye witness to the killing who was also the State's main witness to deny and not to admit nor volunteer facts favorable to the defendant, which facts would have mitigated his punishment at the hands of the jury.

And further, where the witness, having received the foregoing advise from the prosecutor, committed perjury regarding matters vital and material to the issues of guilt or punishment.

And further, where the prosecutor before the trial had begun, received certain information vital and material to the issues of guilt or punishment favorable to the defendant but unknown to the defendant that such evidence was in possession of the prosecution, failed and refused to apprise the Court, the defendant or the defendant's attorney of the same so that such evidence would be available to the defendant.

But instead, having advised the defendant -- the witness to deny such facts, the prosecutor then proceeded to question the witness regarding these facts, received answers known to the prosecutor to be untrue, sat mute and neither informed the Court nor the defendant that the testimony of the witness was false.

In the trial of the case, the State of Texas, while putting on its main case, called to the witness stand one Natividad Castilleja, and after eliciting testimony from him regarding the stabbing of the wife of the defendant, Herlinda -- Herlinda Alcorta, got from him testimony that he was -- the girl meant nothing to him that she was a friend of his sister's, that he had met her at his sister's home, that his sister made statements to him to the effect that this girl is a friend of mine, she lives near you and she works near you and I'll appreciate it if you'll give her a ride home from time to time.

After bringing out that testimony and the testimony regarding the killing, this further testimony was elicited from that witness

What page is that?

Fred A. Semaan:

Page 8 of our brief.

Questions by Mr. Barrera, “She's married.

Now, other than the time you saw or met Herlinda Alcorta at your sister's house, did you ever see her on other occasions?”

Answer, “Well, I gave her about two times, I gave her a ride.”

Question, “You gave her a ride about two times?”

Answer, “Yes, sir.”

“From where to where?”

Answer, “From where she was working to her house.”

And then again, “Natividad were you in love with Herlinda?”

“Was she in love with you?”

Answer, “No.”

“Had you ever talked about love?”


“Had you ever had any dates with her other than to take her home?”


Well, just when I brought her from there.”