Beck v. Washington

RESPONDENT: Washington
LOCATION: Brown Shoe Co.

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962)

CITATION: 369 US 541 (1962)
ARGUED: Nov 14, 1961
DECIDED: May 14, 1962

Facts of the case


Media for Beck v. Washington

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 14, 1961 (Part 2) in Beck v. Washington

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 14, 1961 (Part 1) in Beck v. Washington

Earl Warren:

Number 40, David D. Beck, Petitioner, versus the State of Washington.

Charles S. Burdell:

If the Court please --

Earl Warren:

Mr. Burdell.

Charles S. Burdell:

-- Mr. Justice.

The questions involved in this case set forth at pages 6 and 7 of the petitioner's brief and the first question is this, Were the petitioner, in this case, a prominent labor union official, has been subjected to continuous, prolonged, and sustained, extensive, enhancive and adverse publicity in all media of communication throughout the judicial area in which he lives and is tried, must the state provide him in his grand jury proceeding where the grand jury which is a fair and unbiased and impartial grand jury.

And this question arises in the State of Washington under circumstances under which accusation may be made by information as well as by indictment.

The second question is, does the petitioner have a right to have the grand jury charged in a fair and impartial manner and in a manner which is not inflammatory and which is -- does not invite the jury's attention, the grand jury's attention to adverse, extremely adverse publicity of a hostile nature which has been circulated about this.

Third question relates to the conduct of prosecutors in the grand jury room with respect to witnesses who are testifying and have testified in favor of or in a manner favorably to the petitioner.

The next two questions relate to failure of the state and the courts of the state to grant a motion for a continuance, the motion for change of venue under these circumstances where there has been this tremendous campaign of vilification, adverse publicity about the defendant, the petitioner in this case.

Our position of course is that the state under these circumstances must provide a defendant with a fair grand jury, a fair method of accusation and that the state must do so both under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as well as under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

John M. Harlan II:

Could I ask you a question?

Charles S. Burdell:

Yes, Mr. Justice.

John M. Harlan II:

Do your various contentions really amount to two, namely that he got a -- he did not have an impartial grand jury which stands independently as your ground of the attack apart from the trial itself?

Charles S. Burdell:

Yes, Your Honor.

John M. Harlan II:

And secondly that the trial itself was unfair, is that it?

Charles S. Burdell:

We make no contention in this Court concerning the fairness or unfairness of the trail itself except that we believed that a motion for continuance should've been granted and a motion for change of venue should have been granted.

John M. Harlan II:

Did you say -- you recognized that the trial itself was fair?

Charles S. Burdell:

Yes, Your Honor, I do except for these qualifications.

Number one, a change of venue or a motion for continuance should've been granted to -- so that we could have tried the case in some jurisdiction where jurors would not have been subjected to the adverse publicity which they were subjected to in Seattle.

Felix Frankfurter:

May I -- may I interrupt, is that derived from the same poisoning from your point of view, poisoning mass media which affected your point of view of the grand jury?

Charles S. Burdell:

Yes Your --

Felix Frankfurter:

Or some additional one at the time of the trial?

Charles S. Burdell:

A continuation of the same type of thing during the period between the indictment and the trial right up to the time of the trial Your Honor.

Then returning to your question Justice Harlan, in addition to the question of motion for continuance and change of venue, and I think I know what -- what's the point you're making.

The unfair grand jury proceedings were carried over into the trial and infected the trial, infected the conduct of the trial, because the grand jury proceedings were used to impeach witnesses.

The grand jury proceedings were mentioned in the course of the closing argument by the prosecutor.

The prosecutor, for example, referring to the grand jury proceedings and the grand jury in the indictment said something to the effect that these grand jurors were not the 17 ogres.

They were just ordinary people like you and me.

The grand -- one of the prosecutors or Mayor of Seattle who is a special prosecutor in the grand jury proceedings testified concerning statements made by the petitioner to the grand jury when he appeared before the grand jury.

And although he testified to certain admissions or statements made by the petitioner in the grand jury when we attempted to obtain the entire grand jury testimony or transcript of the petitioner's testimony in the grand jury, he denied that the court examine the transcript.