Remmer v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Pittsburgh Party Headquarters

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1955-1956)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 350 US 377 (1956)
ARGUED: Jan 18, 1956
DECIDED: Mar 05, 1956

Facts of the case


Media for Remmer v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 18, 1956 in Remmer v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 156, Elmer F. Remmer versus United States of America.

Leslie C. Gillen:

May it please the Court.

This case presents these questions.Did the defendant in the criminal income tax case receive a fair trial at the hands of an impartial jury when unknown to the defense, these things were happening during the trial.

A friend of the jury foreman met with and conversed with the jury foreman and told him that the defendant was a tax evader and proposed to him the possibility of receiving a bribe.

The F.B.I. investigated the matter.

An F.B.I. agent interviewed this juror during the trial.

The judge, the trial judge and the United States Attorney prosecuting the case determined to keep this matter concealed completely from the defense which they did.

And later, a Deputy United States Marshal in charge of the jury revealed the happening to a second juror and told this second juror that there had been an attempt to tamper with the jury.

Now, it may please the Court before embarking upon the facts that I believe should be considered here.

May I take a moment of the Court's time to record to the Court the judicial events that brought this case before this Court today?

The petitioner was indicted for three income -- three income tax years returns for himself and his wife.

On February 22nd, 1952, he was convicted or two of these years and that the jury disagreed as to one other year which happen to be the largest year involved.

The trial lasted for three full months and this was an involved and closed network case and the jury deliberated for two days.

Now, a tiny motion was made for a new trial and included in that motion was a motion for a hearing on the extraneous jury contacts which incidentally came to the attention of the defense for the first time through inquiries by newspaper reporters, the morning after the verdict was returned.

The Court denied a hearing of the extraneous jury contacts and this was upheld by a decision of the Appellate Court for the Ninth Circuit.

This Court held that it was error to deny the right to a hearing on the extraneous jury contacts and remanded the matter to the District Court with a directive that, an inquiry, a full hearing should be given to the jury incident to determine whether or not the incident complained of was harmful.

The matter was assigned to United States District Judge Goodman of the Northern Districts of California and the hearing was held in Reno -- in Carson City, Nevada.

The -- Judge Goodman on July 10th, 1954 made a finding and wrote an opinion in which he found that the incident was harmless.

The petitioner petitioned this Court for a rehearing which was granted and the entire matter that is the extraneous jury incident and the other points that had been raised in the initial appeal were remanded by this Court to the Ninth Circuit.

Now, when that was done, the petitioner, because this particular jury question had never been briefed or orally argued particularly since the remanded hearing, the petitioner petitioned the Circuit Court for permission to file briefs, seriatim briefs and to present an oral argument.

The Circuit Court ordered that concurrent briefs to be filed and denied the right to argue and part of the matter submitted without argument.

The Circuit Court returned a per curiam opinion in which no reference are mentioned or discussion was contained concerning any point that was raised including of course this jury point.

Now, the -- the petitioner then appealed to this Court and certiorari was granted and this, may it please the Court, is the first opportunity that we have or that we have had to present oral argument on this particular point.

The petitioner wishes to present to this Court three major contentions.

The first contention is that the evidence developed -- that they developed at the remanded hearing before the District Court, not only fails to overcome the presumption of prejudice but on the contrary, it reveals such a shocking disregard for simple justice as to leave no conclusion except the prejudice resulted.

Our second major contention is that the District Judge, Judge Goodman, assigned to the remanded hearing misconstrued the scope of this Court's order with regard to what sort of a hearing should be held.

And third, we contend that District Judge Goodman applied incorrect rules to the presumption of prejudice.

Now, may it please the Court, very briefly the facts in this matter are these.

The trial started on November 28th in Carson City, Nevada and as I have indicated, the Court ended on February 22nd, 1952.

On the night of December, 18th, when the trial was a little more than two weeks under way, Mr. I. J. Smith, the juror, who later became a foreman of the jury and incidentally, there were two alternate jurors who sat throughout the trial.