Redrup v. New York

PETITIONER: Redrup
RESPONDENT: New York
LOCATION: Times Square

DOCKET NO.: 3
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 386 US 767 (1967)
ARGUED: Oct 10, 1966 / Oct 11, 1966
DECIDED: May 08, 1967

Facts of the case

Robert Redrup was a newsstand clerk at Times Square in New York, New York. In 1965, he sold copies of two pulp sex novels to a plainclothes police officer. New York City's criminal court tried and convicted Redrup for selling obscene material under New York Penal Law. The Supreme Court of New York affirmed. Harlan Publishing, the producers of the allegedly obscene material, supported Redrup throughout his appeal.

William Austin owned a retail bookstore and newsstand in Paducah, Kentucky. A woman purchased two magazines from a salesperson in Austin's store, asking for them by name –High Heels and Spree. Austin was tried and convicted of distributing obscene materials under Kentucky law. In a per curiam decision with one dissent, the Kentucky Court of Appeals overruled Austin's appeal, finding no error in the trial.

Gent, Swank, Modern Man, Bachelor, Cavalcade, Gentleman, Ace and Sir, were allegedly obscene magazines distributed by W.E. Burnham in Jefferson County, Arkansas. The Jefferson chancery court found the magazines to be obscene under an Arkansas anti-obscenity law and enjoined their distribution. The Supreme Court of Arkansas upheld this ruling despite admitting error in jury selection and instruction. Writing for the majority with two dissents, Chief Justice Carleton Harris argued that the magazines violated the contemporary community values of Jefferson County, but that one magazine was entitled to appeal the ruling."

Question

Do petitioners' obscenity convictions violate their First Amendment rights?

Media for Redrup v. New York

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 11, 1966 in Redrup v. New York

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 10, 1966 in Redrup v. New York

Earl Warren:

Number 16, William L. Austin, petitioner versus Kentucky.

Mr. Fleishman.

Stanley Fleishman:

Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Court.

Almost three years to the date, a private citizen, a Mrs. Catherine Wolfen, walked into the Read More Bookstore in Paducah, Kentucky and ordered three books, two magazines rather.

She ordered four and she purchased two magazines the required title.

She then marched over to the McCracken County Court House and swore out a complaint in statutory language.

He said that Mr. Austin, the owner of the store, had violated the Kentucky Obscenity Law.

The basis of her charge was that purchase by her and her reading of the magazines in her conclusion based on no judicial standards that the magazines were in fact obscene.

The statute involved provides that any person who sells an obscene book or magazine, knowing the contents or character is guilty of an offense.

The statute also provides that any person who sells a publication found by the jury to be obscene is presumed to know the obscene character of the work.

Now the evidence against Mr. Austin is very simple.

Mr. Austin stipulated that he was the owner and operator of the bookstore.

Mrs. Wolfen testified that she had called up a friend of hers and said, “I'm going to make a buy at Read More come on down and be witness.”

And she made a buy. She stated that the magazines were in a rack behind the cash register and she's testified that they were in this rack behind the cash register because a ministerial association had asked Mr. Austin to take them out of reach of minors.

And so, Mr. Austin to accommodate himself to this request took them and put them behind the cash register, where only a person who ordered the magazines by title could get them and where no minors could get.

The only other evidence in the case is the testimony of Reverend Simpson, a member of the Citizens for Decent Literature and the head of the Moral and Social Welfare Committee of the Paducah Ministerial Association.

He testified that he had asked Mr. Austin to come down to a meeting that the ministers had to discuss objectionable material.

At that time Mr. Austin told the ministers, that if they had any specific publications they thought were obscene to tell him and he would remove them.

And the ministers in effect said, “Get rid of all of them.”

That's the sum in substance of what they say.

Potter Stewart:

But the ministers want to get rid --

Stanley Fleishman:

Get them -- get rid of all.

Potter Stewart:

-- of all the magazines?

Stanley Fleishman:

No magazines are contained any nudes at least.

That was the short of it and that's what the state recognized in their argument, if Your Honor please.

In their final argument to the jury, they pointed out that in effect the ministers told them to get rid of Playboy now and forever.

Not just Playboy May but Playboy so that there won't be any doubt about it and the language is clear.

This is the argument of the prosecutor to the jury.

They're talking about Mrs.Wolfen as the censor.

I'm talking on page 86 of the record.