Stewart v. United States

PETITIONER: Stewart
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Huntington National Bank

DOCKET NO.: 143
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 366 US 1 (1961)
ARGUED: Feb 21, 1961
DECIDED: Apr 24, 1961

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Stewart v. United States

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

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

Earl Warren:

Number 143, Willie Lee Stewart, Petitioner, versus United States.

Mr. Carey.

Edward L. Carey:

May it please the Court.

Willie Lee Stewart has been tried for first-degree murder on three different occasions in the District of Columbia.

The first-degree murder conviction, as you gentlemen know, carries with it the mandatory death penalty.

On the prior two occasions, when he was tried and convicted, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed for two different reasons.

The third time he was tried, Willie Lee Stewart took the witness stand.

In prior two trials, he did not take the witness stand.

After we had concluded our direct examination of the appellant, the prosecutor then began to cross-examine.

During the course of such examination, the prosecutor secured no information or no effect of cross-examination from the appellant.

He said to the appellant, he's about to conclude his cross-examination, "This is the first time you've taken stand, isn't it, Willie?"

Willie says "What?"

The prosecutor then again said, "This is the first time you have taken the stand."

He then concluded his cross-examination, he then approached to bench and asked for a mistrial.

Felix Frankfurter:

What was the reply?

Edward L. Carey:

"I don't know what you're talking about."

These are words to that effect, Your Honor.

He didn't -- at the first time he said, "This is the first time you've gone on the stand, isn't it, Willie?"

I'm quoting now from page 140 of the record.

Answer - "What?"

Question - "This is the first time you've gone on the stand, isn't it, Willie?"

Answer - "I am always the stand; I'm everything; I done told you."

That was the limit of the answer to the question.

At the bench when we asked for a mistrial, we contended, the prosecutor had brought before the jury the fact that this man had not taken the stand on two prior occasions.

We contended that the jury was not entitled to know that.

Our contention was that this man was exercising a constitutional right and a statutory right not to take the stand.

Our motion for a mistrial was denied.

We renewed the motion at the completion of the trial.

We further made it the basis for a new trial.

We contend by such representation by the prosecutor -- this is more than a question.