Henry v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: District Court for the District Court of Columbia

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

CITATION: 361 US 98 (1959)
ARGUED: Oct 20, 1959 / Oct 21, 1959
DECIDED: Nov 23, 1959

Facts of the case


Media for Henry v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 21, 1959 in Henry v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 20, 1959 in Henry v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 17, John Patrick Henry, Petitioner, versus United States of America.

Mr. Calihan.

Edward J. Calihan, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

The petitioner, John Patrick Henry in this cause was convicted in the Northern District of Illinois of a violation of Section 659 Title 18 United States Code of the unlawful possession of three cartons of transistor radios of a value of an excess of $100.

Prior to the trial, a motion to suppress was made.

The motion was denied.

The motion was then amended and again denied.

The plaintiff and his co-defendant, one Albert Pierotti, waved a jury trial.

They were tied by the District Court, and after the Government's evidence was concluded, a motion for judgment of acquittal was made and denied.

The defendants both the petitioner, John Patrick Henry and his co-defendant Albert Pierotti offered no defense.

They were convicted, both appealed, the Court affirmed and the 2-to-1 decision, a dissent having been written.

Pierotti is not with this any longer.

He dropped out of the cause.

Now, in this case, there are two questions presented, and they were also presented below.

First one is the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States does not permit the stopping of an individual riding in a motor vehicle on a public highway detention and questioning of said individual, search of the vehicle in which he is riding as a passenger, physical deprivation of his freedom of movement without such conduct constituting arrest.

Any effect developed by the officers after the stopping of the motor vehicle not just to file or give validity to the act of stopping.

The second point is that the evidence is not of sufficient weight as a matter of law to support the conviction of the petitioner where the courts below relied principally upon an improper interpretation of a so-called presumption that unexplained possession of recently stolen goods will authorize a conviction.

Now, the facts are that on May the 13th of 1957, the petitioner, John Patrick Henry was drinking in a bar called Phil's Tavern.

At about 12 o'clock, the -- a government witness asked him if he knew where he could get a bet down on a horse.

It was a bad day, and the government witness loaned the petitioner, John Patrick Henry, his automobile.

Meantime, the co-defendant who was a duct worker for Zephirine Tracklines had sometime in the foreknown and independently of the petitioner handled some transistor radios which were moving across the duct as a part of an interstate shipment.

Somehow unbeknownst to anyone, Mr. Pierotti managed to get three cartons of these radios off of the duct.

Now, this is preliminary.

I give you the background of each of the activities of the two defendants for a purpose.

There were two agents, two FBI agents, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents patrolling the area together with three or four other units.

It appeared that the night before a whiskey loss in the amount of some $50,000 has been incurred.

Apparently, a truck was stolen from the Hayes Motor Truck service and the agents where in the area seeking leads to the whiskey loss.

They observed John Patrick Henry, the petitioner, and Pierotti come out of another saloon where apparently the petitioner had gone in his effort to get a bet on a horse.

They saw him come out of the saloon and saw them get into the Ford automobile which had been loaned to the petitioner.

Both the petitioner and Pierotti drove south to the end of the block around the corner to the right west, around the next corner to the right north and then proceeded two blocks north to another corner where they turned west.