Piemonte v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: District Court of Massachusetts

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

CITATION: 367 US 556 (1961)
ARGUED: Mar 21, 1961
DECIDED: Jun 19, 1961

Facts of the case


Media for Piemonte v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 21, 1961 (Part 1) in Piemonte v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 21, 1961 (Part 2) in Piemonte v. United States

Earl Warren:

Mr. Gilinsky, you may continue.

Theodore George Gilinsky:

Mr. Chief Justice, just prior to the recess Mr. -- a question was asked with regard directly to the statute.

And I think the Government's answer without any question is that the man has immunity.

And I think this is related to the question that the Chief Justice asked me and I like to explain it in these terms.

Take this example, if we take Piemonte in this particular context and he was at the point where he was granted immunity by the court and then he is now taken in front of a grand jury, the same grand jury that day or the next day as happened here.

And the very first question that's -- I think this is a part of it.

The very first question is, “Now, did you rob the First National Bank?”

I think the answer is yes, he has immunity in regard to that transaction.

And I say it for the same reason that I answered the Chief Justice.

And that this -- the prosecutor has decided quite clearly in that case that this is relevant to the inquiry.

I do not think that the witness has to decide or should decide what is relevant to the narcotics inquiry if the prosecutor chooses to open up this avenue and that's where we're going.

And in this connection of course, it's true the prosecutor and he usually told to be very careful because Congress has continually told the prosecutors, "Don't give anybody an immunity bath," as they term it.

But I say very clearly without any question, that if the prosecutor in this grand jury asked this question, he does get immunity.

Now, this doesn't always have to happen in this sequence and it's only when you get away from this particular -- the particular facts here that I come to another problem namely --

Earl Warren:

Before you get to that, can we just pursue this just a little farther?

Apparently, that the robbing in the First National Bank is well about as far away from a narcotic bracket and as you would expect almost any other crime to be.

Now, does that mean that -- that any question that he asks would -- would confer immunity?

Any question whether it's -- it's murder or robbery or -- or anything else?

Theodore George Gilinsky:

I -- I think you're -- I think that's right because as you originally pointed out Your Honor, many of these do have a great connection with -- and I --

Earl Warren:

Were the jury --

Theodore George Gilinsky:

-- and I don't think -- I don't think it's up to the witness to decide where the prosecutor is going.

Potter Stewart:

If the prosecutor is stupid enough to --

Theodore George Gilinsky:

That's right.

Potter Stewart:

(Voice Overlap) that's an entirely irrelevant question --

Theodore George Gilinsky:

I suppose so.

Potter Stewart:

(Voice Overlap) immunity for that, too.

Theodore George Gilinsky:

I -- I think the witness is entitled to rely on the Government.

If the Government tells me he has immunity in this circumstance and the Government then asks him a question which the Government thinks is relevant, I think the witness has a right to rely upon.

I think the statute gives him immunity.

Felix Frankfurter:

But you just slipped in -- I don't mean, you just inserted a phrase, “If the Government thinks it's relevant.”