Gilbert v. California

PETITIONER: Jesse James Gilbert
RESPONDENT: California
LOCATION: Alhambra police station


CITATION: 388 US 263 (1967)
ARGUED: Feb 15, 1967 / Feb 16, 1967
DECIDED: Jun 12, 1967
GRANTED: Jun 13, 1966

Luke McKissack - for the petitioner
Norman H. Sokolow - for the respondent
Thomas C. Lynch - Attorney General, for the respondent
William E. James - Assistant Attorney General, for the respondent

Facts of the case

Jesse James Gilbert was charged with armed robbery and the murder of a police officer in Alhambra, California. Gilbert refused to answer questions about the robbery charge without the advice of counsel, but later answered questions about a robbery in which the robber, allegedly Gilbert, used a handwritten note demanding the money. He gave the police handwriting exemplars, which were later admitted into evidence. The police also had eyewitnesses identify Gilbert in a line-up that was conducted without notice to his counsel. During the trial, several witnesses identified Gilbert in the courtroom as being a part of multiple robberies, including the Alhambra robbery. No distinction was made as to whether the in-court identifications were independent of the illegal line-ups that occurred before the trial. The jury rendered a guilty verdict and imposed the death penalty. The California Supreme Court affirmed. 


(1) Does taking of handwriting exemplars violate the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination?

(2) Are in-court identifications unconstitutional if there was no determination of whether they were influenced by an illegal lineup procedure? 

Media for Gilbert v. California

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 15, 1967 in Gilbert v. California

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 16, 1967 in Gilbert v. California

Earl Warren:

Jesse James Gilbert, Petitioner, versus California.

Luke McKissack:

May it please the Court --

Earl Warren:

Mister --

Luke McKissack:

-- at the termination of yesterday, I was informed -- I asked the marshal to inform me when ten minutes were left and I managed to go one minute over till nine, but I've concluded my opening argument.

Earl Warren:

Very well.

Mr. Sokolow.

Norman H. Sokolow:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

Mr. James will discuss the effect of the co-defendant's statements and I shall discuss the other issues commencing with the lineup.

Relative to the lineup we believe the essential question is this, whether petitioner's right to the assistance of counsel for his defense was violated by his being placed in the lineup subsequent to his -- to the indictment when his counsel was not present at which lineup he was required to exhibit himself and speak for identification.

Our answer briefly is that -- the right to the assistance of counsel did not apply to the lineup, there being no violation of the privilege against self-incrimination.

Hugo L. Black:

Did I understand --

Norman H. Sokolow:

But --

Hugo L. Black:

Did I understand you to say he was compelled to speak after being put in the lineup?

Norman H. Sokolow:

Yes, Your Honor.

Yes, Your Honor, by way of factual background, Mr. Gilbert was arrested in Philadelphia, February 26, 1964.

He was indicted in this case on March 10th.

He was not returned from Philadelphia to California until March 16th.

Counsel was appointed March 18th, new counsel substituted in on March 24th.

The lineup took place March 26.

Three of the seven eyewitnesses to the robbery at the Mutual Savings and Loan in Alhambra which culminated in the killing of Officer Davis, related that they attended the lineup.

Mrs. Riddle, Ms. Butler, and Mr. Clark at the penalty phase, the eight eyewitnesses who identified Gilbert in connection with various other robberies also related that they attended the lineup.

From the record we have here, it appears that the ten or more so individuals in the lineup were asked to move and to speak for identification.

What the -- I -- doesn't appear that Gilbert said anything of an incriminating nature that was --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Did he know exactly what each was asked per se?

Was there a question further how was it done, does the record tell us?

Norman H. Sokolow:

The record is not as precise on that Your Honor.

The only witnesses really that testified to any details of what happened were Ms. Butler, Mrs. Riddle, and Mr. Clark --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Now, this was at the trial on guilt or innocence?

Norman H. Sokolow:

This was at the trial on guilt or innocence.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

The other eight testified only at the trial on penalty?