Parr v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Dry Docks at Reed, WV

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 363 US 370 (1960)
ARGUED: Apr 28, 1960
DECIDED: Jun 13, 1960

Facts of the case


Media for Parr v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 28, 1960 in Parr v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 391, George B. Parr et al., Petitioners, versus United States.

Mr. Fortas.

Abe Fortas:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This is case is here on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The Fifth Circuit affirmed these convictions of the petitioners on the various counts of an indictment, 19 counts of which, charged violations of the federal mail fraud statute and the 20th count of which charged the violation of the conspiracy statute.

This Court granted certiorari on two questions, first, whether the mail fraud statute is applicable in -- to this indictment and the facts of this case.

And second, whether the defendants should have been granted access to the grand jury testimony of one of the witnesses at the trial, Diego Heras.

In addition, due to impart to developments after petitioners have filed their petition for a certiorari with this Court and after the Solicitor General had filed his brief in our position to the petition for certiorari and the manner had been submitted to this Court because of events happening thereafter, to which I shall elude.

In our brief, we have suggested that the Court considered whether this case is suitable for the exercise of its supervisory power and whether the case calls for the exercise by this Court of its supervisory power over the administration of the federal criminal process.

Now, with the Court's kind indulgence, I shall commence with a discussion of the mail fraud point, which in our submission will dispose of the case and in our submission should result in a dismissal of the indictment.

Before doing that, I should like very briefly to give the Court, if I may, an idea of our point with respect to the grand jury testimony question and a very brief idea of the reason why we have respectfully suggested consideration of the invocation and use in this case of this Court's supervisory power.

I shall then go to the mail fraud point and shall then return to the grand jury and the supervisory power points.

On the grand jury point, the witness, Diego Heras, was in our submission, the Government's principal witness, the Government disputes that.

His testimony occupied 23% of the record below about 1000 pages out of about 6000 pages.

The Court instructed the jury below that they might convict on the testimony -- on the unsupported testimony of an accomplice.

The Court instructed the jury that Diego Heras was an accomplice.

The Court of Appeals stated that Diego Heras' testimony contained many inconsistencies and contradictions and it's said that the jury might have considered him far from trust -- trustworthy, as we argue in our briefs, those are mild and gentle words.

Earl Warren:

Is that the District Court told the Court of Appeals?

Abe Fortas:

The Court of Appeals.

Court of Appeals.

Abe Fortas:

Yes, Your Honor.

Now, subsequent as I said, after the petition for certiorari and the Government's brief had been submitted to this Court, the Solicitor General filed a memorandum in this Court saying in fact, “Oops, we're very sorry.

There is no transcript of Diego Heras' testimony before the grand jury.

His testimony before the grand jury was never recorded.”

That despite the fact that the distinguished prosecuting attorney, in the case in the District Court, Mr. Wilkey who was then United States Attorney in Houston.

Mr. Wilkey had stated trice in the trial court, in response to inquiry that there was a transcript of Mr. Heras' testimony and there are yards of words that were spelled in the District Court and miles of words that were debated in the Court of Appeals on that assumption and the case was litigated by the -- by the defense on that basis.

Charles E. Whittaker:


Abe Fortas:

Yes, sir.

Charles E. Whittaker:

Or that is not just a contained district custody.

Abe Fortas:

He said, “I have the transcript and it is in my office.”