Whiteley v. Warden, Wyo. State Penitentiary

RESPONDENT: Warden, Wyo. State Penitentiary
LOCATION: Duke Power Company's Dan River Stream Station

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 401 US 560 (1971)
ARGUED: Jan 13, 1971
DECIDED: Mar 29, 1971

Facts of the case


Media for Whiteley v. Warden, Wyo. State Penitentiary

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 13, 1971 in Whiteley v. Warden, Wyo. State Penitentiary

Warren E. Burger:

oWhiteley against the Warden of Wyoming State Penitentiary.

Mr. Knudsen you may proceed whenever you’re ready.

William K. Knudsen, Jr.:

Thank you sir.

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This is a habeas corpus proceeding which started in the United States District Court in Wyoming in November 1967 where petitioner’s claims were rejected.

On appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, the lower court’s decision was affirmed.

The pertinent history of the state court proceeding begins with Whiteley’s arrest in November 1964 and is being charged in two counts, breaking and entering and being an habitual criminal.

The petition was tried in Carbon County, Wyoming by a jury in May 1965 and convicted on both counts.

He was sentenced one to 10 years on the first count and for life imprisonment on the second, both counts to run concurrently.

Whiteley appealed this conviction to the Supreme Court of Wyoming which affirmed the judgment below.

In the United States District Court below when the party stipulated to try the case on both the record in the Trial Court in these original criminal proceedings number 2885 and on the record on appeal to the Supreme Court of Wyoming.

The issue before this Court is whether probable cause existed for petitioner’s arrest.

If not, a surge incident to this arrest was illegal and invalid and the fruits thereof could not be used at his trial as they were.

Warren E. Burger:

When was he tried originally?

William K. Knudsen, Jr.:

He was tried in May 1965 Your Honor.

The pertinent facts are as follows: on November 23, 1964 several business establishments are broken into in a small town of Saratoga, Wyoming.

The next day, the sheriff of Carbon County acting on a tip from an unnamed and unidentified informant executed a complaint or affidavit on a basis of which an arrest warrant was sought and was issued.

With the Court’s permission, I would like to read the pertinent parts of this complaint since petitioner’s case in large part is based on a two alleged defects contained there in.

This complaint appears on page four of our brief.

Mr. Knudsen you said based in large part, isn’t it based entirely --

William K. Knudsen, Jr.:

Well Your Honor --

In your alleged defects of this --

William K. Knudsen, Jr.:

Three courts below have surprised me by ruling that at the -- there was probable cause for a warrantless arrest.

And I would like to address that question in a moment sir.

I think the case rises or falls on this affidavit but the Supreme Court of Wyoming, the United States District Court for Wyoming in the Tenth Circuit have all argued that this was a warrantless arrest based on probable cause.

Potter Stewart:

Their position is that it doesn’t make any difference whether the affidavit is defective.

William K. Knudsen, Jr.:

They didn’t seem to discuss it Your Honor and I take it that they felt that it was defective and there were other grounds for the warrantless arrest.

Potter Stewart:

I just want to be sure of your position.

Your position is that even if there were no affidavit which was defective, if the affidavit didn’t exist that still you would have a case here?

William K. Knudsen, Jr.:

No, we would not.