Heflin v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Union Station

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 358 US 415 (1959)
ARGUED: Jan 14, 1959 / Jan 15, 1959
DECIDED: Feb 24, 1959

Facts of the case


Media for Heflin v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 15, 1959 in Heflin v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 14, 1959 in Heflin v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 137, Lurton Lewis Heflin, Jr., Petitioner, versus United States of America.

Mr. Cooper, you may proceed.

Jerome A. Cooper:

If the Court pleases.

We are here on a petition for certiorari, a writ of certiorari to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in a matter arising under the Federal Bank Robbery Act.

The petition seeks review of a judgment of the Fifth Circuit which in turn had affirmed a decree of the District Court, Northern District of Alabama which refused to vacate or reduce or correct a sentence which as then existed was in three counts before the District Court.

There is a little history to this case prior to the action on that motion to the District Court, which was a 2255 motion and, which I mentioned parenthetically, was not opposed on any procedural or jurisdictional ground by the U.S. Attorney who had notice and appealed and argued and was not -- when it eventually reached the Fifth Circuit challenged on any jurisdictional or preliminary or premature argument and was read by the U.S. Attorney in the Fifth Circuit.

Prior to the action of the District Court of which we complain here, there had been, in 1954, a trial on a five-count indictment arising out of a single bank robbery and charging three individuals on five counts with participation in a bank robbery and receipt and disposition and so forth of the stolen funds.

An appeal was taken from the conviction of guilty on all five counts by the counsel who were -- who was appointed by the District Court to serve the then appellant before the Fifth Circuit.

In the Fifth Circuit, on the direct appeal from the conviction, various arguments were raised by the appellant including the argument that he had been subjected improperly to successive sentencing when that was not allowed by the statute.

The Government confessed there apparently in that appeal to the Fifth Circuit, and two counts were found by the Fifth Circuit then to be incorrect and were ordered eliminated.

Those were counts which charged the defendant with both being guilty under the provision of the statute making robbery a crime and the provision making larceny a crime, so that on remand, from the Fifth Circuit then, the District Court was ordered to eliminate two counts and we were left with three counts.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Well, how many had the petitioner wanted to eliminate?

Jerome A. Cooper:

All five.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Wanted all five.

Jerome A. Cooper:

Yes, sir.

And as will later appear, the -- the Fifth Circuit enacting in the -- in the decree, which I now challenge, in part rested its present decision on the fact that this was a repetition of the argument which had been made in the first direct appeal to it.

So that when we got back to the -- when they got back to the District Court, I have not yet in the case, the sentence was reduced from 20 years and two days to 10 -- to 14 years and one day which results from the three counts based on robbery, aggravated robbery, that is robbery in which an assault upon an individual was committed, conspiracy and the count, which I now challenge here, the count based on subsection (c) for receiving and possessing and disposing of the funds which were taken in the robbery.

On that count, we were given a year and a day, basically, therefore, the issue we --

Earl Warren:

That's the only one that's in issue here?

Jerome A. Cooper:

That's the only one that's in issue --

Earl Warren:


Jerome A. Cooper:

-- issue, yes, sir.

Basically, therefore, we have the -- the question under the Bank Robbery Act can the crimes of robbery and the crime of the receipt of stolen money be made the basis of separate indictments and separate sentences -- separate counts, excuse me.


Jerome A. Cooper:

I beg your pardon?

And disposition, yes, sir.

I -- I would say though in regard to that there's very little evidence in this matter of what disposition if any was made.

And I am -- although I am getting little ahead of it, I -- I'm prepared to say that in this case, it seems to me that the Court can do one of two things, it can decide and dispose of the question of the validity of Count 4, the one that I am now challenging because the indictment itself in the record, the -- the true record that's before this Court shows that they were considering -- both courts below were considering a single robbery, a single transaction or single impulse, however you wish to put it.

And if, as I was surprised to find, that it is possible to bring before this Court now, as the Government is doing, a transcript of the evidence taken in the first trial at this late hour, I would technically think that's wrong.

The Circuit Court of Appeals did not consider it.