Trammel v. United States

PETITIONER: Otis Trammel, Jr.
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado

DOCKET NO.: 78-5705
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 445 US 40 (1980)
ARGUED: Oct 29, 1979 / Oct 30, 1979
DECIDED: Feb 27, 1980

ADVOCATES:
J. Terry Wiggins - on behalf of the Petitioner
Wade H. McCree, Jr. - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

Otis Trammel, Jr. was indicted on federal drug charges. Before his trial, he advised the court that the Government would call his wife as a witness against him. The indictment named Mrs. Trammel as an unindicted co-conspirator and the Government granted her immunity in exchange for her testimony. Otis moved to assert a privilege against adverse spousal testimony to prevent her from testifying against him. The district court denied the motion, and allowed Mrs. Trammel to testify to any act she observed during the marriage and any communication made in the presence of a third party. Only confidential communications between Mr. and Mrs. Trammel remained privileged and inadmissible. Otis was tried and convicted. On appeal, Otis argued that the district court’s ruling violated Hawkins v. United States where the U.S. Supreme Court held that one spouse may not testify against the other unless both consent. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit affirmed, holding that the Hawkins did not prevent voluntary testimony of a spouse who appears as an unindicted co-conspirator under grant of immunity.

Question

Is it a reversible error to permit a wife to be called as a witness against her husband over his objection and without his consent?

Media for Trammel v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 30, 1979 in Trammel v. United States
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 29, 1979 in Trammel v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - February 27, 1980 in Trammel v. United States

Warren E. Burger:

I have the judgment and opinion for the Court to announce in Trammel against the United States.

And for reasons stated in an opinion for the Court filed by the clerk this morning, the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit is affirmed.

Mr. Justice Stewart filed a separate opinion concurring in the judgment.