Mercer v. Theriot

LOCATION: Alabama State Capitol

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 377 US 152 (1964)
ARGUED: Apr 22, 1964
DECIDED: May 04, 1964

Facts of the case


Media for Mercer v. Theriot

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 22, 1964 (Part 2) in Mercer v. Theriot

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 22, 1964 (Part 1) in Mercer v. Theriot

Earl Warren:

Number 336, Wanda Mercer versus Paris Theriot.

Mr. Brumfield.

H. Alva Brumfield:

Yes, sir.

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This is a death action brought by a widow for the death of her husband who was killed on Grand Isle which is on the shoreline of the State of Louisiana, the action being brought under Article 2315 of our Civil Code which is our death action statute.

It was brought in the federal court on the ground of diversity of citizenship as the widower is a citizen of the State of Texas.

A jury trial was held and the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the widow.

The facts of this case briefly stated, the deceased, (Inaudible) Mercer was an offshore worker, working out in the Gulf of Mexico and he lived in a trailer on Grand Isle and he go to and from his work out in the Gulf by boat.

He came in, docked on Grand Isle -- that docked there on December the 18th, 1955 at approximately 7 o'clock of that evening.

As a rule, he would ride with coworkers who drop him off with his trailer where he lived with his wife.

But on this night, he decided to not ride with his coworkers and he would walk home, it's about four miles to the East.

There's only one road on Grand Isle being Highway 1.

He was found on the right hand side of the road on the shoulder of the road the next morning, 6:00 or 6:30 am, faced down some two or three feet from the asphalt portion of the highway on the shoulder of the road, dead.

There were tire marks showing that on the shoulder of the road, at and near his body, a -- a pool of blood in the tire mark on the shoulder of the road and he was severely injured, his legs were broken, liver, spleen ruptured, spine chord injury, skull fracture, brain damage resulting in his death as shown by the coroner's report.

There were no eyewitnesses to this accident that caused his death.He wore a -- a denim overalls of blue.

The -- when he -- when his body was found, the investigative officers were notified and they came to the scene and made some pictures of the body there on the shoulder of the road which pictures are introduced into evidence and are before the Court here.

The officers also made an -- an investigation and determined that there was a man that had been on the island as they would call it down there, in a bar, a fisherman's bar wharf and drinking scotch and water all afternoon.

This man was Paris Theriot and he owned an automobile agency and he came down there to sell, the owner of the business there, an automobile which he did consummate the sale that afternoon, drinking scotch and whiskey during the course of the afternoon.

And he left the bar at about 7:30 of that night, 7 pm.

It was foggy and rainy, drizzly evening.

Immediately, the officers -- he became the suspect and the officers went to his -- where he lived, he got a home on Grand Isle as well as in Golden Meadow, Louisiana.

And they went up to Golden Meadow and found him and asked him if he'd been on the island and he first denied that he hadn't -- hadn't been there at all but then he later admitted that he had been there.

And they asked him where his car was and he pointed out to it across the bar there.

And the officers got the car and made some pictures of it in an investigation, examination of the automobile and found that the right rim of the headlight was missing.

That the front fender was dented on the front and that there was a dent on the hood of the automobile, about near the windshield and that in this denture -- indentations on the automobile, there was a blue coloring.

And so the officers took scrapings of this coloring which was fabric-like and matched according to the testimony of the officials, the -- the denim overalls that this deceased was wearing.

Mr. Theriot was then asked if he had washed his car and he denied that he had, although he --- he said that it always been washed every morning but this morning, it hadn't been washed.

Yet the officers found some powdery -- powdery substance, one of them described, it looked like Old Dutch Cleanser on the automobile indicating that it had been washed.

The officers also found a towel -- stuff behind the seat cover behind the back -- the front seat up between the seat and the seat cover of a brown substance which appeared like blood.

They put the car on a rack and found underneath the car some hairy substance and -- and blood under the steering mechanism, underneath the car.