Piccirillo v. New York

PETITIONER: Piccirillo
LOCATION: Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)

CITATION: 400 US 548 (1971)
ARGUED: Nov 09, 1970
DECIDED: Jan 25, 1971

Facts of the case


Media for Piccirillo v. New York

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 09, 1970 in Piccirillo v. New York

Warren E. Burger:

We’ll hear arguments next in number 97 Piccirillo against the State of New York.

Miss Nathanson, you may proceed whenever you’re ready.

Malvine Nathanson:

Thank you Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case presents question of the application of the Fifth Amendment to a witness before grand jury proceeding.

The petitioner contends that the bribery conviction, which is presently being appealed, was obtained in violation of his privilege against self-incrimination and further in violation of his right to counsel, under the Federal Constitution.

In about March of 1964, the petitioner with another person, were arrested for an assault for which crime they were subsequently convicted.

On the same day that they were arraigned for this assault charge, they allegedly offered a bribe to the arresting police officer to induce the officer to dispose of the weapons in the case and to change his testimony to reveal the names of other witnesses and so on.

This bribe offer was fully reported to the District Attorney in March of 1964.

They obtained a mini-phone, tape recording of conversation between the petitioner and the police officer, and all of these was in the hands of the District Attorney in March of 1964.

In March of 1965, one year later, while the petitioner was serving his sentence, under this assault conviction, for which he had pleaded guilty, he was called before grand jury, which was reportedly investigating the assault that had been committed by the petitioner and the conspiracies arising therefrom.

His co-defendant in the assault case was called first, pleaded the Fifth Amendment, was granted immunity and testified.

The petitioner never had a chance to plead the Fifth but was immediately offered immunity -- was voted immunity.

Immediately prior to his actual testimony, he requested to see his lawyer and he was assured by the District Attorney conducting the investigation that he had nothing to worry about.

He was being fully protected, he didn’t need a lawyer at all, and so he testified.

Four days later, the District Attorney had the police officer to whom the bribe was offered come in and testified before the grand jury.

And several months later, the petitioner who had been told that he was being fully protected was indicted for bribery.

The bribery conviction is the case that is presently on appeal.

And during the course of the petitioner’s grand jury testimony, which is -- I stated was given under a grant of immunity.

He was asked to testify about the particular facts surrounding the assault itself.

What weapons were used, where the assault took place, they were interested in who would hired him.

The petitioner could only give a name and a vague description.

As I said, he was asked about the weapons that were used.

He was asked where the assault took place and so on.

There was, I may point out, no eyewitness to this assault, so the only direct evidence of the assault itself would have to come either from the victim of the assault or the petitioner and his co-defendant.

The police officer was also asked about the assault and was particularly asked about what petitioner had told him about the facts of the assault.

And the police officer’s version of what the petitioner told him jived very, very closely with what the petitioner had testified to.

As it turns out, the petitioner had described all of these events to the police officer during the course of making the bribe offer, for which the petitioner was indicted.

Now, it is our position that first that the grand jury actually relied or probably relied upon the petitioner’s testimony, when they decided to indict him for bribery.

It is secondly our position that the petitioner should have been protected from indictment for bribery, because under the Constitution, as you can see he had been compelled to testify to matters relevant to the bribery.

He had to be given protection for such a prosecution and it is further our position that the petitioner was deprived of his right to consult with his attorney before he testified and as a result the indictment that was obtained must be dismissed.