Henry v. Mississippi

RESPONDENT: Mississippi
LOCATION: Point of picking up hitchhiker

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 379 US 443 (1965)
ARGUED: Oct 13, 1964
DECIDED: Jan 18, 1965
GRANTED: Feb 17, 1964

Barbara A. Morris - for the petitioner
G. Garland Lyell, Jr. - for the respondent

Facts of the case

During Aaron Henry’s trial for disturbing the peace, the State of Mississippi introduced testimony of a police officer who conducted an unlawful search of Henry’s car. Henry allegedly made indecent proposals and offensive contact when he gave a ride to a hitchhiker. Henry’s counsel failed to object to the testimony when it was entered into evidence as required by local rules. Henry’s counsel later objected to the testimony in a motion for directed verdict, but the court denied the motion and the jury found him guilty. On appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court held that the testimony was improperly admitted, and excused Henry’s lack of objection because he was represented by out-of-state counsel, who were unfamiliar with the local rules of criminal procedure. After this judgment, Mississippi filed a Suggestion of Error pointing out that Henry was represented by competent in state counsel as well as out of state counsel. As a result, the Mississippi Supreme Court withdrew its first opinion and affirmed the conviction, holding that even honest mistakes are binding.


Does Henry’s conviction violate due process where it is based on evidence obtained in an illegal search, and that evidence was later objected to in a motion for directed verdict instead of at the time the evidence was introduced?

Media for Henry v. Mississippi

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 13, 1964 in Henry v. Mississippi

Earl Warren:

Number 6, Aaron Henry, petitioner, versus Mississippi.

Ms. Morris.

Barbara A. Morris:

Mr. Chief Justice may it please the Court.

I would first like to request that I'd be allowed to reserve five minutes for any rebuttal that might be necessary.

Earl Warren:

You may do that.

Barbara A. Morris:

This petition for certiorari before this Court results from another instance of the use and abuse of criminal process by a state to acquire any cause for conviction of the defendant or an alleged criminal charge, a Negro, defendant then whose engagement in Civil Rights activities and whose associational -- and whose associations are not here related to this case.

A conviction that is based on a record that has -- is so fraught with errors and fundamental denials as due process that if anyone of the basis which I intend to discuss are not sufficient.

The cumulative effect is a sufficient basis for reversal of this case.

We have then the decision of the Supreme Court of Mississippi reversing that judgment followed by the suggestion of error of the Attorney General which again points out the association now with petitioner's counsel and the reason I mentioned this is because I think that it has culminated and that which appears on page 13 and 14 of the state's brief, in the guise of seeking relief which the state knows it cannot get here and it would be improper to receive here, it has included this matter and I don't think that it need be dignified by any further discussions, but I would call it to the attention of this Court.

Tom C. Clark:

You mean the affidavits?

Barbara A. Morris:

No, I am not talking about the affidavits sir.

I'm talking about that which appears on the final paragraph of the brief.

Potter Stewart:

Because on the arguendo -- the arguendo of the State's plea.

Barbara A. Morris:

I am indeed --

Potter Stewart:

On the other hand, Mrs Morris is there anything in the record to show that -- to support your preliminary statements here to the Court that this is a persecution of this person because of this affidavit?

Barbara A. Morris:

I think there is.

I think that it points to that and I will make record references as I go on to it.

You will recall as far as the facts are concerned that the first description of a Negro driving big black car, given by the complaining witness and which appears in the -- that portion of the transcripts, 158 and 159 which is the original statement of the complainant, where the party was asked that -- when were a party advised them that the person driving the car was involved in discussed segregation, his statement, and I would read it to the Court, is they knew who I was talking about right away, he said he was involved with NACP or something and the same theme prevails this case throughout it and I don't think that it is of -- not in the sense of importance.

I don't think this is glaring as some of the other errors here, but I think that this last issue, I think demanded that it be raised.

Apart from the conduct of the investigation in which whatever original statement the complaining witness made never appeared because there was no original affidavit.

And I think the clarification that there was a tailoring considering the difference between the writ use of the complaining witness's original description of what happened and his final testimony at trial, so that the defendant -- a crime was made the fit the defendant ultimately.

There was an illegal arrest.

It was a denial of a right to subpoenas where there is supposed to be a compulsory right of process.

There was a refusal of the Court to desegregate the courtroom.

The attitude of the Court is clear from the record, the addressing of Negroes' by their first name.

Finally, conviction of a Court lacking jurisdiction and the major point in this case which is the conviction of the defendant on illegally seized evidence.

First, reversed by the Court below and then affirmed by the Court below which admits that this evidence was in fact illegally obtained so that, that issue was not here.

I would like to devote myself to the jurisdictional question because I think it could be built within less time, if this Court permits.

It's elementary to the Court of Mississippi because it so states that trial by a Court lacking jurisdiction is a fundamental denial of due process.

It also raises Fourteenth Amendment issues, that under the statute of Mississippi and Justice of the Peaces or jurisdiction begins with the lodging of an affidavit and that's in accordance with 1832 of the statutes.