Estes v. Texas

LOCATION: United States Post Office and Courthouse

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

CITATION: 381 US 532 (1965)
ARGUED: Apr 01, 1965
DECIDED: Jun 07, 1965

Facts of the case


Media for Estes v. Texas

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 01, 1965 in Estes v. Texas

Earl Warren:

Number 256, Billie Sol Estes, petitioner versus Texas.

Mr. Cofer.

John D. Cofer:

May it please Your Honor and members of the Court.

The Estes case is a case which has given rise to consideration for this Court a very important question.

The few times I've been before this Court, I always feel humbled.

If Plutarch said, great men must be born in famous cities and maybe enough lawyers must have famous clients and so my claim gentlemen is possibly my famous client.

Mr. Estes was indicted in the state court on a three-count indictment and he was convicted of swindling.

The effect of the charge was that he had induced a farmer to sign a note and he was paid, the farmer was 10% of what proceeded from the note would realize for signing that and that Mr. Estes by misrepresentations that secured possession of that instrument which was property on the facts it was not a particularly strong case as presented in courts.

The important thing and the thing that this Court is interested in and has limited its review is this matter of photography and TV in the courtroom and the standards as expressed by Canon 35 and the standards which have been recognized in the federal courts in Rule 53.

The briefs of the state present the natural question.

Well they took his picture in the courtroom, so what?

Why make a federal case out of it and when I say that I use it in a slang meaning that the dictionary of slang says hold the emphasis that judiciary code says invasion of a federal right makes a federal case.

When counsel read in the paper that it was contemplated that this case would be televised, counsel didn't feel that they could bring their client into the courtroom to answer the charges against him.

They asked permission of the Court to appear without their counsel to protest the TV.

Certainly, it would --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

The preliminary hearing (Voice Overlap)

John D. Cofer:

I beg your pardon.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

This was at the preliminary hearing?

John D. Cofer:

This was when the case was called for trial.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Well do I understand though that on this record, something happened for two days in September --

John D. Cofer:


William J. Brennan, Jr.:

-- and there was a continuance until October?

John D. Cofer:

Yes, yes sir.

The case was called to trial and the case was continued.

What I had reference to Your Honor was that when he -- his case has said the defendant is under bond, he has to appear in court.

This defendant was unwilling to appear in court because of the television vans in front of the courthouse because he was to be publicized to the world as a man who stole $20 million.

Defendant's due process should include it seems to me the right of the defendant to appear in court and answer to the charges and that those things that interfere with and in the opinion of his counsel would injure him in his appearance, raise serious questions of invasion of the defendant's rights.

We must remember that a defendant is presumed to be innocent and he may not Your Honors be treated as if he were guilty.

He doesn't become a public character whose picture can be broadcast to the world.

He stands just as the ordinary citizen, the right to sit in his home and not have photographers come and take his picture.