Wyatt v. United States

PETITIONER: Wyatt
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Fleetwood Paving Co.

DOCKET NO.: 119
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 362 US 525 (1960)
ARGUED: Jan 13, 1960
DECIDED: May 16, 1960

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Wyatt v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 13, 1960 (Part 1) in Wyatt v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 13, 1960 (Part 2) in Wyatt v. United States

Earl Warren:

(Inaudible)

Roger G. Connor:

Your Honor --

Earl Warren:

What basis do they do it on -- do they agree? If they agree why -- that's first of all I -- take your time.

Roger G. Connor:

Your Honor, as far as I can discover from reading those cases, they speak very little of a victim.

They speak more in terms of this being the kind of an offense which does not come within the exception because the offense is violated with the marital relationship.

And they speak more in those terms as I read those cases.

Earl Warren:

Well, what -- what authorities of this Court that they go back to in -- in deciding it on that theory?

Roger G. Connor:

I don't believe there are any authorities of -- of this Court on that question except the general ones, construing the Mann Act and saying that the purpose of this is to strike was commercialized vice even though the constitutional basis for its enactment is the commerce power.

Earl Warren:

Well --

Roger G. Connor:

They go on that rationale.

They also, in those lower courts -- lower federal court cases, utilized decisions of state courts and the English courts which deal with this privilege and the exception to it.

We are urging this Court to do the same thing.

Earl Warren:

In the state courts they -- they do it very wisely by statute, do they not?

Roger G. Connor:

That is correct Your Honor.

But most of the statutes are declaratory to the common law in this respect, and stated in those terms, the courts there presented with virtually the same question that this Court is.

Petitioner cited a line of statutory rape cases and also in a case which involves a husband procuring an abortion for his wife.

The state courts and many of those instances have said that where the wife does not want to testify then against the husband, that it comes within the privilege and not the exception.

On the other hand, we have cited the line of cases in our brief where -- where the husband has committed assaults against the wife and the courts have there held that it does come within the exception.

And the English court noted that if she's not within the exception, then she's compellable like any other witness.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

We gather -- through any of the federal courts ruling, the Mann Act cases make any effort to distinguish the statutory rape cases?

Roger G. Connor:

No, not to my knowledge.

I -- I believe in one of them, they are mentioned but rejected.

Most of them don't -- don't seem to dwell on to any extent.

The holdings of these courts below were all tied to the Mann Act and the purposes of it, and we believe that the adoption of this by the Court in this case will result in effectuating the purposes of the Mann Act, that that will be the pragmatic effect and that the overturning of this line of doctrine in the courts below will result in a frustration of the purposes of Congress as expressed in the Mann Act.

We're not asking for the extension of something which is deleterious to the marital privilege.

We are asking that the privilege be enforced in its proper spirit, that that is exception to the privilege not be allowed in this kind of case, because the -- allowing the exception here would not be consonant with the purposes of Congress in the Mann Act nor even with the public policies that underlie the privilege.

Charles E. Whittaker:

(Inaudible)

Roger G. Connor:

In what respect Your Honor?

Charles E. Whittaker:

(Inaudible) under the exception, that could be here the victim or, as I would say it, the offense must be one against her?

Roger G. Connor:

Yes, that is the rationale of the exception.