Zafiro v. United States

PETITIONER: Zafiro et al.
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: White House

DOCKET NO.: 91-6824
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 506 US 534 (1993)
ARGUED: Nov 02, 1992
DECIDED: Jan 25, 1993

ADVOCATES:
John F. Manning - on behalf of the Respondent
Kenneth L. Cunniff - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Zafiro v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 02, 1992 in Zafiro v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in No. 91-6824, Gloria Zafiro v. the United States.

Mr. Cunniff.

Am I pronouncing your name correctly?

Kenneth L. Cunniff:

It's Cunniff.

William H. Rehnquist:

Cunniff.

Mr. Cunniff, you may proceed.

Kenneth L. Cunniff:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The question presented is whether criminal defendants are entitled to separate trials when their defenses are mutually antagonistic.

This case involved four defendants charged with narcotics violations.

Each moved for severance based upon antagonistic defenses that he or she said were going to be presented at trial.

The trial judge denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed--

Byron R. White:

Did... there were four defendants, and did each one of them make a motion?

Kenneth L. Cunniff:

--Yes, Your Honor, each made a motion.

Byron R. White:

And did they want to be separates from all the other three?

Kenneth L. Cunniff:

No, Your Honor.

It was broken down in two separate pairs.

Byron R. White:

I got it.

Thank you.

Kenneth L. Cunniff:

In affirming--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Did Ms. Zafiro ever ask for severance?

Kenneth L. Cunniff:

--She did ask for severance at the trial level.

She did not raise it in the appellate court, Your Honor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Is she properly before the Court now?

Kenneth L. Cunniff:

I would suggest under fundamental fairness she should be because if this Court finds that the antagonistic defenses are still a proper basis for severance, it had been raised previously, and she should still be considered in that position.

In this case, it is the Government's... it the Government that is asking for a radical departure from the accepted rule of severance.

Until now, although the circuits used different standards, there was a common element that ran through all of the decisions of each of the courts.

If a defendant raised an antagonistic defense, he was entitled to severance.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Cunniff, let me interrupt you for just... are all four of these people petitioners here, Zafiro, Martinez, Garcia, and Soto?

Kenneth L. Cunniff:

Yes, Your Honor.

William H. Rehnquist:

Thank you.