Frazier v. Cupp

LOCATION: Circuit Court of Mobile County

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 394 US 731 (1969)
ARGUED: Feb 26, 1969
DECIDED: Apr 22, 1969

Facts of the case


Media for Frazier v. Cupp

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 26, 1969 in Frazier v. Cupp

Earl Warren:

Number 643, Frazier, Petitioner versus H. C. Cupp, Warden.

Mr. Feuerstein?

Howard M. Feuerstein:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court, I'm Howard M. Feuerstein of Portland, Oregon representing the petitioner Martin Rene Frazier who was a prisoner in the Oregon State Penitentiary serving a 25-year sentence for second-degree murder.

This case involves Frazier's petition for writ of habeas corpus and involves three distinct issues.

The first issue is whether Frazier was denied his right of confrontation when the prosecution placed before the jury in its opening statement the confession of a co-indictee who had later invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify.

The second issue is the admissibility of Frazier's written statement and whether that the obtaining of that statement violated Escobedo versus Illinois or in the alternative that statement was involuntarily given.

And finally, case involved an issue of validity of a search and seizure of certain clothing of Frazier.

The District Court granted the writ of habeas corpus on the right of confrontation and on the confession issue and did not rule on the search and seizure issue.

The Warden appealed and the Ninth Circuit reversed the District Court finding against Frazier on all three issues.

This Court granted certiorari.

If it please the Court I'll discuss the facts as they pertain to each issue separately.

Frazier and his cousin Rawls were jointly indicted for first-degree murder in the strangulation slaying of one Russell Marleau.

Frazier entered the plea of not guilty and at the time of Frazier's trial, Rawls had entered the plea of guilty to reduce charge of second-degree murder and was in jail awaiting sentence on that charge.

At Frazier's trial, Frazier's defense attorney has admitted that Rawls, Frazier, and Marleau were together at the time of Marleau's death and that an altercation occurred.

The defense however asserted that it was Rawls who strangled Marleau and that Frazier had no part in the strangulation.

The prosecution of course denied this.

They had ample evidence placing the three at the secluded scene of the crime.

They of course had no direct evidence as to who did the strangling because there are no other eyewitnesses.

Potter Stewart:

He was also hit on the head --

Howard M. Feuerstein:

That is correct, however, that was not the cause of the death.

The prosecution primarily tried to impeach Frazier's version of what it transpired.

The day in which Frazier's trial was to start prior to impaneling a jury.

The attorneys met with the Judge in Chambers.

At that time, Frazier's attorney informed the district attorney that he'd heard that Rawls had been subpoenaed and that he just talked to Rawls' attorney and been informed that Rawls would not testify if called to the stand.

We know that prior to this time the district attorney was in possession of conflicting information on whether or not Rawls is to testify.

A jury was impaneled in the next day, the district attorney made his opening statement, In the course of the opening statement he said, that the officers had talked to Rawls during their investigation and that the district attorney was going to call Rawls as a witness.

At this point, holding Rawls confession in his hand, the district attorney proceeded to paraphrase that confession.

The defense moved for mistrial after the opening statement which was denied.

Later the district attorney called Rawls to the stand.

Rawls appeared with his attorney and refuse to testify.