Mesarosh v. United States

PETITIONER: Mesarosh
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Quality Photo Shop

DOCKET NO.: 20
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1956-1957)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 352 US 1 (1956)
ARGUED: Oct 10, 1956
DECIDED: Nov 05, 1956

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Mesarosh v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 10, 1956 in Mesarosh v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 20, Stephen Mesarosh, also known as Steve Nelson, et al., versus United States of America on the motion of the Solicitor General to remand.

Mr. Solicitor General.

J. Lee Rankin:

May it please the Court.

This is a motion to remand this case to the District Court for an examination of the testimony of a witness, Mazzei, in the light of circumstances that occurred after the trial.

We have set out the various circumstances about five in general number in our motion.

We filed this motion because we felt that it was the duty of the Department and the Government to this Court as a lawyer before this bar and also as a prosecutor.

We think the Court is entitled to know why we delayed to this date or the date that we made the filing of the motion in presenting this matter to this -- to this Court in that forum.

We think that the District Court is the proper forum in which to reexamine this testimony in the light of what occurred later.

The knowledge of this matter came to the Office of the Solicitor about 10 days before the motion was filed.

That is true also in regard to my colleagues.

Earl Warren:

Did you say a majority of your colleagues?

J. Lee Rankin:

Of all of my colleagues.

Earl Warren:

Oh, of all of your colleagues.

J. Lee Rankin:

In the Solicitor's Office.

I will tell the Court as to how it developed in the Department and what our problems were with regard to the matter.

The first item was the one of June 18th, 1953 in regard to the testimony before the Senate Committee concerning Senator McCarthy, a plot against him, and the -- Mr. Bortz and his statements before a Communist meeting in regard to handling of firearms and the construction of bombs.

That matter was developed during the trial in an interrogation of the jurors to determine the effect that it had upon for this -- this witness to appear before the Committee.

It was gone into at some length by the Court and the Court appeared to be satisfied that it did not affect the trial of the case.

Then, we have the further incident --

Earl Warren:

Did the -- but that the Department know then or did the Department then have reason to doubt the honesty of that statement?

J. Lee Rankin:

The problem in regard to that was that when the witness, Bortz, appeared before the Committee, he stated that if he truthfully answered the questions that the Committee asked him in regard to the testimony of Mr. Mazzei before the Committee, that it would incriminate him.

So, he had on the one hand that -- the statements that raised the real problem for us as to their validity before the Committee and we had the statement of the person who was involved, Mr. Bortz, saying that any truthful answer of those questions would incriminate on the other side.

And we had the question then if whether or not that testimony, being known to the Court and the jurors, having been interrogated about would be such that it should reach back to the testimony of Mr. Mazzei in this case about the connection of the various defendants.

Hugo L. Black:

Did he say would incriminate him or might incriminate him?

J. Lee Rankin:

My recollection, would incriminate him.

Hugo L. Black:

In other words, he admitted that he -- that he --

J. Lee Rankin:

That was, if I understood --

Hugo L. Black:

-- admitting criminal offense?

J. Lee Rankin:

I understood the thrust of his testimony.

And if seriously, it casts serious doubt as to which one could be right, although obviously, the statements were difficult for anybody to assume their validity.