Williams v. Oklahoma City

RESPONDENT: Oklahoma City
LOCATION: apartment

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1969)
LOWER COURT: Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals

CITATION: 395 US 458 (1969)
ARGUED: Apr 01, 1969 / Apr 02, 1969
DECIDED: Jun 09, 1969

Facts of the case


Media for Williams v. Oklahoma City

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 02, 1969 in Williams v. Oklahoma City

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 01, 1969 in Williams v. Oklahoma City

Earl Warren:

Number 841, Tommie E.L. Williams, petitioner versus City of Oklahoma City, et al.

Mr. Gray, you may proceed with your argument.

Jon F. Gray:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

The petitioner below has been completely barred from his statutory right to appeal the criminal conviction against him and this bar has been solely upon the basis of his poverty.

We therefore contend that the case before Your Honors today is on all force or even a stronger case than that presented to this Court in the case of Griffin versus Illinois and following cases in which this Court has held that for decade that the state may not withdraw a right of appeal from a person upon any invidious discrimination such as poverty.

The respondents raised two points, their first point is that there is some adequate alternative method of appeal open to us and their second point is that the Griffin rule should not apply since the offense convicted in this case and appealed from is a petty offense with which we disagree.

In Oklahoma as was the situation in Illinois at the time of Griffin case there are two methods of appeal.

There is a short form of appeal which is the clerk's transcript then contains barely the few papers of record.

It is conceded in respondents' brief at page 8 and it was so held by the trial court that this method of appeal is inadequate in this case.

The second method of appeal available in Oklahoma is the long form which we call a “case-made” and which respondents agree at their brief in page 4 is the method in which the court reporter's transcript evolved with the evidence and all of the proceedings and all of the instruments are made up and presented to the appellate court.

Now, turning to their first point, that there is an adequate alternative method the response assert that the defendant should have made up a statement of the evidence for memory in early form and submitted it and I quote from page 8 of their brief, “in lieu of the case-made” and that therefore, we would have an alternate method of appeal.

Abe Fortas:

Of course it matter in which word does that word “case-made” come from?

Jon F. Gray:

Your Honor, the statute as far as I can tell states that the party shall make up a case and that the statute set forth in our brief and I think that's where it come from.

Potter Stewart:

You said statute, it's in the appendix of your brief.

Jon F. Gray:


Potter Stewart:

This many, I have a little trouble finding it.

I'm not being critical it's a very thorough brief.

Jon F. Gray:

It's section on page 39.

Potter Stewart:

Top of page 39, case-made in criminal cases.

Jon F. Gray:


Now, the facts of this case which we say bring this case within Griffin rule is that the defendant who is conceded in this case to be indigent.

He was a hospital janitor making about $55.00 a week and supporting 11 children.

The defendant was convicted in the municipal court of Oklahoma City after a trial and this is important, a trial by a 12-man jury and was convicted of the crime of driving, and this is also critical, driving under the influence, not drunk-driving for everybody knows what drunk-driving is, but driving under the influence and he was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail and paid a fine of $50.00 under a statute in which the maximum sentence is 90 days in jail and $100.00.

Earl Warren:

Is there a legal distinction between drunk-driving and driving under the influence?

Jon F. Gray:

I think it's a matter of degree, Your Honor.

Earl Warren:

Then what is the legal difference between the two?

You said, you know what drunk-driving is but this is something different, then it's something different.

Jon F. Gray:

I think in the drunk -- if he was charged with drunk-driving, and I know of no common statute that sets about that charge but I understand some states have them that the prosecution would have to prove that the defendant was drunk, drunk on his mind, they drunk out -- and in this case, the prosecution only has to prove that the defendant had enough alcohol to influence his driving to some degree which would render him incapable of safely driving.

And that's the distinction that I --

Potter Stewart:

You just have this single offense in your statement.