Skinner v. Louisiana

LOCATION: United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)

CITATION: 393 US 473 (1969)
ARGUED: Dec 10, 1968
DECIDED: Jan 27, 1969

Facts of the case


Media for Skinner v. Louisiana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 10, 1968 in Skinner v. Louisiana

Earl Warren:

Number 44, William Skinner et al., petitioner versus Louisiana.

Mr. Leppert.

George M. Leppert:

Mr. Chief Justice, Your Honors and Associate Justices.

I represent the three petitioners in this case, who were convicted in a marijuana prosecution at which petitioner Skinner received 10 years, Gueldner 16 years, and Chauvenet, the Negro defendant received 50 years.

Although we're relying upon strictly legal issues here, it is necessary to present to you some of the highlights in the facts.

Mr. Skinner who received 10 years was never shown to have been a user or an addict or a vendor or pusher of narcotics in any way.

He engaged in a -- he was successfully engaged in two second-hand automobile places in New Orleans.

And it was admitted by the narcotics agents that they undertook initially to make a case against one of his employees, they were not after Skinner at all, and failing in that apparently, it made a case against him along with Gueldner, his salesman and Chauvenet who was alleged to be the pusher.

Now, the indictment, the information charged a single transaction.

There were two counts.

On May 21, 1965, a sale of about $10.00 with marijuana cigarettes in possession of the same cigarettes.

The manner in which Skinner became involved in this is set forth clearly in the preliminary hearing and in the trial on the merits, all of which is referred to in our brief.

It amounted to a plea of entrapment but we're not urging that because that's factual issue but it is necessary to understand what happened.

The undercover agent Fullington had gotten as a cover job, a position of a financing manager of a company which had the yes or no on loans used by Mr. Skinner in his business.

He ingratiates himself with Mr. Skinner.

He went out to the race track with him.

He let him put up money for the bets.

He let him make dates with him with women and then finally when he gotten that far into his confidence, he informed him that he wanted to get some marijuana for a friend of his.

And it was set up according to the state's testimony for it to be delivered on the night of May the 21st at which time the allegedly took place on the lot on Skinner's lot.

Then under Louisiana system evidence which is very broad, the state was allowed to bring in quite another transaction on May 28 involving another portion $13.00 worth of marijuana which allegedly took place on the same lot through a meeting with Chauvenet set up in the same way.

Earl Warren:

Between the same parties?

George M. Leppert:

Yes sir.

Now, under the Louisiana system of evidence which I say is the broadest in the country, they were also permitted to bring in another transaction which neither Skinner nor Gueldner had in connection with and which the agent said that after he got the second marijuana, he told Chauvenet he wanted to get some heroin and he says that Chauvenet on that same day went somewhere else in other part of the city and got some heroin.

So there was -- on that original deal that was engrafted, these other two transaction.

One of which two defendants the same, were the same and one of which that had no connection well except the fact that it started on the automobile lot.

Now, we won this case originally by vote of five to two in the State Supreme Court on the theory that the Court had erroneously given a full blown conspiracy charge whereas none was involved.

There was a separate conspiracy case turning and we contended that the lower Court, the trial Court had become confused and went further than saying that admission of evidence of one conspirator statements could be used against the other.

But he gave a full blown partnership theory of conspiracy.

We won it five to two and on a rehearing, they reversed themselves and ruled six to one against us and then denied all the other bills.

I'm not pressing that point now because I believe that that procedure was wrong.