United States v. Ventresca

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: United States Post Office and Courthouse

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 380 US 102 (1965)
ARGUED: Jan 18, 1965 / Jan 19, 1965
DECIDED: Mar 01, 1965

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Ventresca

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 18, 1965 in United States v. Ventresca

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 19, 1965 in United States v. Ventresca

Earl Warren:

United States Petitioner versus Giacomo Ventresca.

Mr. McCann.

Matthew R. McCann:

Yes sir.

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

My name is Matthew McCann and I'm a lawyer in Worcester, Massachusetts, and I represent the defendant in this action, Mr. Giacomo Ventresca.

Very briefly so that you will know what happened here, I have a trial practice and this man was referred to me for purposes of handling his trial.

He was arrested for possession of an illegal distill in the home or rather in a cellar of his house at 148 1/2 Coburn Avenue.

That house is a couple of miles from where my office is located and what happened here was that a search warrant was sought for on August 30, 1961 to search the house.

That affidavit -- that a search warrant was bottomed on an affidavit, which is the principal issue or the central issue in this case.

On September 1, the search was made and the distill was seized in the cellar of the house.

It was done about quarter of nine in the morning.

Mr. Ventresca and his wife and family were still in their pajamas.

The federal officers entered under authority of the search warrant, went into the cellar, seized and apprehended distill and destroyed the contraband they found there.

And quite collaterally went up to the second floor and rifled the contents of the bureau drawer and the top of the bureau and took the wallet out of the man's pants pocket, which were hanging on the closet door and alike and so, I filed a motion to suppress the evidence and have it returned.

Potter Stewart:

During that collateral of activities, that evidence was returned with it.

Matthew R. McCann:

That was returned.

Potter Stewart:

They were returned, weren't they?

Matthew R. McCann:

That was returned.

Potter Stewart:

Well, that's no longer in the case.

Matthew R. McCann:

No longer in the case.

So that those extraneous matters – items, which should not have been seized, matters of evidence rather than matters of crime were returned, but I lost the motion hearing on the matter of the hearsay affidavit, which I thought it to be and the case proceeded to trial.

I tried the case in the Federal District Court of Boston and I lost it and the man was given a jail sentence and a fine.

I took an appeal to the Circuit Court for the First Circuit.

And the three court, three-judge bench sustained my appeal and reversed the sentence, reversed the judgment on a split decision two to one.

Judge Hartigan deciding in the favor of the defendant.

Judge Woodbury filed a dissent and Judge Aldrich filed a concurring opinion, which really -- when you read it was more of a dissent to the dissent.

Then the government requested and was granted certiorari and we are now here.

Now, the affidavit was looked at yesterday, but since it is the central issue in the case, I think it would be well to start off today again simply by looking at the two key paragraphs.

This affidavit was really a sandwich type in the sense that it had an introductory paragraph, a short one and a concluding paragraph, which was a short one.

And then sandwiched in between the beginning and the end were two and a quarter pages of typed material, single space on legal sized paper, many, many facts were cited, sandwiched in between the beginning and the end, but without any specification or identification as you know from yesterday's argument as to who saw what or whether the people who gave the information to the affiant themselves saw what were reported.