Norvell v. Illinois

LOCATION: Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 373 US 420 (1963)
ARGUED: Apr 24, 1963
DECIDED: May 27, 1963

Facts of the case


Media for Norvell v. Illinois

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 24, 1963 in Norvell v. Illinois

Earl Warren:

Number 513, Willie Norvell, Petitioner, versus Illinois.

Mr. Sullivan.

Thomas P. Sullivan:

Mr. Chief Justice Warren, Honorable Members of the Supreme Court.

This case is here on certiorari to the Supreme Court of Illinois and it comes here as an aftermath to the case of Griffin against Illinois in 351 United States.

This case presents the question whether a convicted defendant whose poverty has precluded him from obtaining appellate review and therefore prevented the trial proceedings that were begun against him from being completed is entitled to a new trial.

The facts in this case are these, the petitioner Willie Norvell was an 18-year-old colored boy in 1941.

He and his brother James and his brother-in-law Edgar Shepherd were indicted for murder.

The petitioner at that time and at all times between then and now was indigent and have no money, whatever.

However, his family retained counsel to represent him at the trial.

The defendants waive trial by jury and were trying before a judge in the criminal court of Cook County.

The -- at the conclusion of the trial, all three defendants were found guilty.

Petitioner, Willie Norvell, was sentenced to 199 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary.

The other two defendants were each sentenced to 50 years imprisonment.

At the conclusion of the trial, Mr. Norvell's family no longer had funds with which to retain counsel and counsel did not represent him at any time between 1941 at the end of the trial and 1961 when I was appointed to represent him by the Supreme Court of Illinois, nor did the family have any money with which to buy the trial transcript which as Your Honors know this is necessary in order to present a case to the Illinois Supreme Court, a criminal case in Illinois.

Nevertheless, efforts were made by the petitioner to determine the cost of a transcript.

An order was entered in the trial court extending the time within which the transcript could be filed and certified but -- and this, Your Honors, is undisputed in the records, solely because the petitioner had no funds.

Solely because he was a pauper, he was unable to obtain the transcript in 1941.

The time expired for the certification of the transcript.

He went down to jail to begin the service, 199 years sentence.

Up today -- up-to-date this is all pre-Griffin?

Thomas P. Sullivan:

Yes, Your Honor.

This is all 1941, and Mr. --

Earl Warren:

How was -- how was that represented to the Court, his indigency at that particular time?

Thomas P. Sullivan:

So far as this record shows, Mr. Chief Justice, there was no representation made to the Court in 1941 of his indigency.

He was represented at the trial and the record we have doesn't show that they talked about pauperism or wealth or poverty.

He was convicted.

A judge who was entered against him, the sentence was imposed and that's the last thing we have other than an order extending the time for filing the transcript for 90 days.

In other --

Earl Warren:

But -- well, how would they -- assuming that Griffin does apply as of that date, how could it be expected that the Court would know that he was indigent and that he was in need of a free transcript, and that the Court should have given him one?

Thomas P. Sullivan:

So far as this record is concerned, Your Honor, there is nothing that shows that the trial court in Cook County knew that Norvell was a pauper in 1941.