Pointer v. Texas

PETITIONER: Pointer
RESPONDENT: Texas
LOCATION: Harris County Justice of Peace Courts

DOCKET NO.: 577
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

CITATION: 380 US 400 (1965)
ARGUED: Mar 15, 1965
DECIDED: Apr 05, 1965

Facts of the case

On the night of June 16, 1962, a man later identified by a witness as Bob Granville Pointer entered a 7-11 Food Store and robbed the manager, Kenneth W. Phillips, of more than $300. The man then fled the store, and Phillips observed him talking to another man at a nearby intersection. A police dog led officers across the street from the 7-11 store to the front yard of a nearby residence, where Pointer was standing. A search of Pointer's person revealed eighty-one dollars in his billfold, and a later search revealed sixty-five dollars hidden in a discarded shoe.

The police arrested Pointer and Lloyd Earl Dillard and took them before a state judge for a preliminary hearing; the state charged them with robbing Phillips of $375 by assault, violence, or by putting in fear of life or bodily injury, in violation of Texas law. An assistant attorney general conducted the prosecution and examined witnesses, but neither of the defendants had a lawyer. Dillard tried to cross-examine Phillips, but Pointer did not.

Pointer was indicted on the robbery charge. At trial, Pointer testified on his own behalf, denying his alleged role in the robbery and swearing he had never been in the 7-11 store. The state offered a transcript of Phillips' testimony as evidence because Phillips had since moved out of Texas and did not intend to return. The defense objected to the use of the transcript as a denial of Pointer's right to confront a witness. The trial judge overruled because Pointer was present at the preliminary hearing, and Pointer was convicted of murder. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his conviction, rejecting Pointer's claim that the use of the transcript violated his rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Question

Did Texas violate Pointer's Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by admitting evidence drawn from a preliminary hearing where Pointer was not represented by counsel?

Media for Pointer v. Texas

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 15, 1965 in Pointer v. Texas

Earl Warren:

577, Pointer versus Texas.

Ready?

Orville A. Harlan:

Yes, Your Honor.

Gilbert J. Pena:

I think so, Your Honor.

Earl Warren:

Very well.

We'll proceed with that -- with that case then.

Orville A. Harlan:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

The question presented in this case as we feel the same as presented in White versus Maryland, 373 U.S. 59.

In this particular case, the examining trial testimony was adduced at the trial upon in which the petitioner was convicted.

At the time of the examining trial, the petitioner was not represented by counsel.

We say that the examining trial in this case was critical for this was the only opportunity that the petitioner had for cross-examining the complaining witness.

And we feel that the cross-examination of a complaining witness in a criminal proceeding is a critical stage of a -- critical stage of criminal prosecution.

The facts briefly in the case are that the petitioner was arrested within a few blocks of a robbery and nine days later --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Within a few blocks of what?

Orville A. Harlan:

Within a few blocks of a recent robbery.

And nine days later, an examining trial was held pursuant to the statutes of Texas to -- at which time, the complaining witness, the manager of the drive-in grocery store, testified and identified the petitioner as the party who had committed the robbery and his testimony also gave out all the necessary elements of the offense of robbery by assault under Texas law.

The petitioner at the examining trial was not represented by counsel.

He was not advised that he had a right to counsel, and he did not ask for a contingence to secure counsel nor was counsel offered to him.

At the trial at which he was convicted, the complaining witness had moved to California.

This was approximately three or four months after the -- the alleged offense.

The State had utilized no diligence in obtaining the witness present for the trial but instead introduced in evidence the examining trial testimony which had been adduced when he did not have counsel.

I like to point out that he did have a counsel at the trial in which he was convicted but we feel that the fact that the testimony of the main witness in the case being adduced when he did not have a counsel was tantamount to conducting a portion of the trial in which he was convicted without a counsel.

Arthur J. Goldberg:

Counsel objected at the trial.

Orville A. Harlan:

Yes, Your Honor.

Arthur J. Goldberg:

(Inaudible)

Orville A. Harlan:

Yes, Your Honor.

Counsel at the trial did not raise White versus Maryland.

He objected because of no predicate had been laid for the intro -- introduction under Texas law.

And also, he did make two objections, I believe, the record will reveal as to denial of confrontment of witnesses.

Arthur J. Goldberg:

In other words, what you are saying is (Inaudible) cross-examined?