Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bitter v. United States case brief

Bitter v. United States case brief summary
389 U.S. 15 (1967)

Defendant was convicted of mail fraud. On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the conviction. The Court granted certiorari.

The Government rested its case on the third day of trial, earlier than anticipated. Defendant was granted leave to go to his office during recess to gather additional evidence for his defense. He returned 37 minutes late. He had been prompt at earlier sessions of the trial. Nonetheless, the trial court, without warning, hearing, or explanation, ordered him into custody. Attempts by defense counsel to explain defendant's lateness were to no avail. Defendant was taken to a jail about 40 miles away and remained there despite his counsel's efforts.

He argued that his incarceration was unjustified and that it materially interfered with his right to counsel and impeded his defense.


  • The Court stated that although a trial court had the power to revoke bail and remit a defendant to custody, this power had to be exercised with circumspection. 
  • It could be invoked only when a defendant's conduct presented danger or when there was danger of significant interference with the progress or order of the trial. 
  • The order here, made without hearing or statement of reasons, had the appearance and effect of punishment rather than of an order designed solely to facilitate the trial.

The Court granted certiorari and reversed the judgment.

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