Johnson v. Louisiana

LOCATION: Barbara James' apartment

DOCKET NO.: 69-5035
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)

CITATION: 406 US 356 (1972)
REARGUED: Jan 10, 1972
DECIDED: May 22, 1972
ARGUED: Mar 01, 1971

Facts of the case

The Louisiana State Constitution and Code of Criminal Procedure allowed less-than-unanimous juries to convict defendants in criminal cases in which hard labor is considered as punishment. Nine of twelve jury members were needed to return a guilty verdict. Johnson was convicted of armed robbery by a jury split nine to three.


Do less-than-unanimous jury verdicts in certain cases violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Media for Johnson v. Louisiana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 01, 1971 in Johnson v. Louisiana

Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - January 10, 1972 in Johnson v. Louisiana

Warren E. Burger:

Number 5035, Frank Johnson against Louisiana.

Mr. Buckley you may proceed when you are ready.

Richard A. Buckley:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This is case is on appeal of the Louisiana Supreme Court’s decision which affirmed appellant’s conviction and sentence for the crime of armed robbery.

The two important issues considered by the Louisiana Supreme Court before this Court on review are first whether the seizure of appellant from a warrantless night time entry into his home violated the Fourth Amendment’s provision against unreasonable searches and seizures.

And secondly, whether the Louisiana Jury System which extends the rule of unanimity to some defendants, but denied it to appellant amounts to a denial of equal protection and also whether a non-unanimous verdict is constitutionally permissible in light of the due process requirement that guilt be established beyond a reasonable doubt.

The relevant facts, most important facts of this case are as follows.

Before daybreak, appellant, a young black citizen was seized from his bed by six New Orleans detectives, all who were armed with shotguns who had entered Johnson’s home without a warrant.

After a complete search of the home and additional interrogation, Frank Johnson was booked for crime of armed robbery.

Three days later was part of a general lineup, that is a number of armed robbery suspects were put in a lineup and viewed by a number of armed robbery victims.

A person who had been robbed, four weeks prior to appellant’s arrest identified Frank Johnson.

This person, however, was not the one for which the appellant had been arrested and booked.

The lineup identification was subsequently used at the trial.

Pretrial hearings were held, where the appellant challenged his arrest and his detention during the lineup.

Appellant was tried with the crime of armed robbery which since 1966 in Louisiana is a crime punishable from 5 to 99 years without the benefit of pardon or parole.

The primary evidence against the appellant at trial was the eye witness identification of the victim.

The jury verdict is 9 for guilty and three for not guilty which in Louisiana constitutes a conviction.

Appellant was subsequently sentenced to 35 years at hard labor in Angola, Louisiana, where he has served four of those 35 years.

In their brief, Louisiana states its policy of never obtaining warrants in cases of this nature.

This policy is in direct conflict with this Court's consistent position that police must whenever possible obtain judicial approval of searches and seizures.

Applying either the warrant test or even the visible search test, the facts of this case requires the finding of an unreasonable search and an unlawful seizure.

At the pretrial hearings, the police testified that there was no reason why they did not secure a warrant nor did the state show any emergency such as hot pursuit to justify the warrantless night time intrusion into appellant’s home.

In convenience to the police, the only reason behind Louisiana’s policy of not securing warrants was firmly rejected by this Court in Johnson versus Louisiana, and has been adhered to since.

It is precisely this type of case which shows the necessity to require the police to adhere to the Fourth Amendment, the warrant requirement.

Based upon information that the police possessed at the time of the arrest, it is doubtful whether an arrest warrant could have been secured because police in this instance did not know the date or the place of the alleged defense.

On the basis of this questionable information, the police made their own determination of probable cause, they made their own determination that they did not need a warrant and further that they -- then you are at home at night, even in light of the Louisiana requirement that a special warrant was needed for night time searches.

Byron R. White:

Oh! Mr. Buckley, assuming there was a probable cause, is there some case in this Court that holds that there is a constitutional requirement for a warrant in connection with an arrest as distinguished from the search?

Richard A. Buckley:

There is no case directly I can find Mr. Justice White, however, underlying in the thrust of all the cases which have alluded to the exceptions to the warrant requirement by implication this Court is indicating that a warrant is required prior to entering a home.

Byron R. White:

Even for the purpose of arrest?

Richard A. Buckley:

Even for the -- it is not so much the arrest, Your Honor, as it is the entry into the home.