Michel v. Louisiana

PETITIONER: Michel
RESPONDENT: Louisiana
LOCATION:

DOCKET NO.: 32
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1955-1956)
LOWER COURT:

ARGUED: Nov 08, 1955 / Nov 09, 1955
DECIDED: Dec 05, 1955

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Michel v. Louisiana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument, Part 2: Michel v. Louisiana (32) - November 09, 1955 in Michel v. Louisiana
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument, Part 1: Poret v. Louisiana (36) - November 09, 1955 in Michel v. Louisiana
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument, Part 2: Poret v. Louisiana (36) - November 09, 1955 in Michel v. Louisiana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument, Part 1: Michel v. Louisiana (32) - November 08, 1955 in Michel v. Louisiana

Earl Warren:

Number 32, John Michel versus State of Louisiana.

Mr. Schreiber.

Gerard H. Schreiber:

May it please the Court.

If Your Honors please, this case, the case of the State of Louisiana versus John Michel and the case that is immediately following this, the case of the State of Louisiana versus Labat and Poret are both petitions to the Louisiana Supreme Court for writs of certiorari from capital convictions for the crimes of aggravative rape.

In both of these cases, the defendants are Negroes.

In both of these cases, the -- the prosecuting witnesses were in one case, the case of John Michel, a young white lady.

In the case of the State of Louisiana versus Labat and Poret, it was an older white lady.

Now, in both of these cases, the defendants, through their counsel filed motions to quash their indictments and both of them haven't been indicted by the grand jury for the Parish of Orleans.

Both of them filed motions to quash the indictments on the ground that there had been a systematic exclusion of Negroes from the grand juries in the Parish of Orleans since time memorable and from these particular grand juries that indicted these defendants.

In both of these cases, we stood ready to prove that the population of the City of New Orleans which is coextensive with the Parish of Orleans is approximately one-third Negro, consisting of some 230,000 people -- 230,000 Negroes of which there were countless numbers that were prominent, educated, businessmen and professional men.

And countless numbers of whom they had been educated in elementary schools, high schools and universities of which we had a -- have a Negro University in the City of the Orleans since 1869.

Having filed our motions to quash in both of these cases, the State filed demurrer to our motions to quash on the grounds that the motions to quash were filed too late.

And in both of the cases, the State's demurrer was sustained and we were denied the opportunity and the right to offer our evidence in support of our motion to quash.

And in both of these cases, if Your Honor -- Honors please, we are here complaining that that action has denied to our clients, the defendants in these particular cases the due process of law that's guaranteed to them by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Now, if Your Honors please --

You make -- you make no question that if you had not filed that's been a good trial.

Gerard H. Schreiber:

The fact -- now, I answer it in this way, sir.

The fact that there has been a systematic exclusion of Negroes from the grand juries in the Parish of Orleans is a judicially admitted and proven fact.

Just recently, as a matter of fact, a motion to quash such as this was sustained by one of the -- the trial judges for the Parish of Orleans.

It is judicially admitted and it's judicially proven that there has been such a systematic exclusion.

Felix Frankfurter:

Not in this case?

Gerard H. Schreiber:

Not in this particular case.

We didn't get that far.

We only got as far as to file our motion to quash to which the demurrer was filed, the demurrer was sustained.

We did not get to offer -- offer (Inaudible)

Now --

Well, if you had been appointed a month ahead, the counsel had been appointed a month ahead and it had ample opportunity to make the motion and had not made it, then you would have no question as to the validity of the trial by -- by a jury would you?

Gerard H. Schreiber:

You mean, presuming -- presuming that there was a sufficient amount of time alloted to counsel?

If Your Honor pleases, the best way that I can answer that is to cite to Your Honors, in which I propose to do in the case of Powell versus Alabama, wherein this Court had said that not only does the defendant have the right to counsel but he also has the right to effective counsel appointed at a time and under such circumstances whereby the counsel is going to render to that particular defendant the effect of aid.

Now, of course, one of these cases are -- is going to come up involving a period of time.