McKinnie v. Tennessee

LOCATION: Criminal District Court, Parish of New Orleans

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 380 US 449 (1965)
ARGUED: Mar 08, 1965
DECIDED: Apr 05, 1965

Facts of the case


Media for McKinnie v. Tennessee

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 08, 1965 in McKinnie v. Tennessee

Earl Warren:

148 Lester G. McKinnie et al, petitioners v. Tennessee.

Mr. Nabrit, you may proceed with your argument.

James M. Nabrit, III,:

Mr. Chief Justice, May it please the Court.

This is sit-in case here on certiorari from Tennessee's highest court.

Petitioners are 8 young Negro college men whose liberty is at stake because they attempted to eat at a white only cafeteria in Nashville in October 21, 1962 and remained standing at the entrance vestibule after the doorman had barred their way because of their race.

They were convicted of conspiracy by a jury which agreed on a fine of less than $50 although empowered to find on as much as a $1,000.

The trial judge imposed the fine -- the $50 fine and added a 90-day work house sentence.

Their claims that their conduct was constitutionally protected were rejected on appeal for the state's highest court.


James M. Nabrit, III,:

That is permissible under the state law the jury controls fines over $50.

The Court -- the judge controls the jail sentence.


James M. Nabrit, III,:

There is a procedure for a defendant to request that if you done more trial that was not done.

This Court granted certiorari in the case before its decisions in Hamm v. Rock Hill and Blow v. North Carolina holding that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 abated all pending prosecutions for non-forcible attempt to enter or remain in establishments covered by the Act.

Now, this case does not merely involve the liberty of these young men for by its arguments here, Tennessee is attempting, we think to nullify the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by criminal prosecutions brought under a law which the Tennessee Supreme Court itself admitted was originally enacted in 1875 to nullify the Civil Rights Act of 1875 dealing with the public accommodations.

Now we make six somewhat related arguments, and I'd like to state them briefly now as I probably will not have the opportunity to argue them all.

First, we make an abatement argue based on Hamm against Rock Hill.

Second, we make a state action racial discrimination argument premised on Lombard versus Louisiana and Robinson against Florida among other cases.

Third, we make an argument that there's no evidence either of a conspiracy to obstruct the restaurant or of a conspiracy to call the riot two of the things -- two of the several things charged in the indictment and we rely -- we rely on the Thompson versus Louisville doctrine.

Fourth, we urged that there was error in instructions to the jury which invited the jury to convict on various unconstitutional grounds.

Including among others, an erroneous instruction about the statutes the defendants were accused of violating.

Trial Judge told the jury three times that the defendants were charged with violating the law which they were not -- they were not accused of.

And also whether the -- that the trial—

Hugo L. Black:

They charged the jury with something they were not -- didn't get the last word.

James M. Nabrit, III,:


The trial judge three times during his instructions to the jury told the jury that these defendants were accused of a conspiracy to violate Section 62-710 of the Tennessee laws which I'll describe in a moment but this is a section briefly that abrogates the common law (Inaudible) and this wasn't true.

The State Court held that was error but said it didn't see how it could affect the judgment of the jury.

And the other related matters, the fact that the accusation read to the jury as part of the instructions asserted the petitioners went to the restaurant with one of the things they're accused of is going to the restaurant knowing that other people like patrons might attack them.

Fifth, we make an argument based on Cole against Arkansas that the Appellant Court rested its affirmance on a theory of what the crime was which was completely contrary to the theory on which the case was tried and litigated and submitted to the jury.

And sixth, there's an argument that the jurors were not impartial with respect to the segregation issue which was central to the case.