Washington v. Texas

PETITIONER: Jackie Washington
LOCATION: Criminal District Court #4

LOWER COURT: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

CITATION: 388 US 14 (1967)
ARGUED: Mar 15, 1967 / Mar 16, 1967
DECIDED: Jun 12, 1967
GRANTED: Oct 10, 1966

Charles W. Tessmer - for the petitioner
Howard M. Fender - for the respondents

Facts of the case

Following a jury trial, Jackie Washington was convicted of murder and sentenced to 50 years in prison. At trial, Washington alleged that Charles Fuller, already convicted for the same murder, actually shot the victim while Washington attempted to stop the shooting. Washington claimed that Fuller would testify to these facts, but the prosecution objected based on a state statute that prevented persons charged in the same crime from testifying on behalf of one another. Washington argued that refusing to allow Fuller to testify violated his Sixth Amendment right to compulsory process for obtaining a witness in his favor. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction.


(1) Is the Sixth Amendment compulsory process clause applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment?

(2) Does a state statute prohibiting persons charged together in the same crime from testifying for each other violate the Sixth Amendment right to compulsory process?

Media for Washington v. Texas

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 15, 1967 in Washington v. Texas

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 16, 1967 in Washington v. Texas

Earl Warren:

Jackie Washington, Petitioner, versus the State of Texas.

Mr. Fender.

Howard M. Fender:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

On the occasion of adjournment yesterday, there was a discussion going on concerning the parallel I was drawing between a statute which prohibits lunatics, and idiots, drunkards, from testifying in the statute in this instance which prohibits a codefendant from testifying.

In order to give you the example of why I think parallel was well drawn Your Honor, I would like to review briefly some of the facts in this case although I dont think they're entirely necessary to a determination question.

Nevertheless counsel yesterday in his argument indicated that if the codefendant had been allowed to testify that he would exonerate the petitioner in this case.

The petitioner, a young man who went around and gathered up a gang, he was searching for a gun.

He placed it in the hands of his drunken codefendant, placed the rest of his gang around the house to throw rocks at the house to bring someone to the front door.

And apparently at that time he lost his courage.

And according to his testimony and according to the affidavit of the codefendant, the last minute, he turned and ran.

I'd like to point out to the Court that he'd be perfectly guilty as a principle even though he did lose his courage and ran at the last minute.

He started the whole thing going.

He organized the expedition.

He was the general that laid down the plan of action and was therefore completely culpable for the death of the deceased in this case.

Now --

Earl Warren:

Was it agreed that they plan the expedition for the purpose of murdering this man?

Howard M. Fender:

Oh, to the purpose of shooting him Your Honor and actually, it was for the purpose of shooting him.

At the trial, they naturally claim that they were just trying to fight.

The deceased had been --

Earl Warren:

Well, if that -- that was a contested fact, I take it?

Howard M. Fender:

Yes sir.

The deceased had been running around with the petitioner's girlfriend, age 16.

And some bad blood had arisen between them and he went around and said he was going to go there and shoot him.

Potter Stewart:

Who was the aged 16, the deceased, the girlfriend or the petitioner?

Howard M. Fender:

The girl.

The girlfriend was -- the others were in there 17, 18-year old bracket.

And --

Hugo L. Black:

What was the sentence?

Howard M. Fender:

50 years.

Earl Warren:

Who fixes a sentence?