Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Webb v. Texas case brief

Webb v. Texas case brief summary
409 U.S. 95 (1972)

Defendant filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, which affirmed his conviction in the district court for burglary.

After the prosecution had rested its case in defendant's burglary trial, the jury was temporarily excused. Defendant called his only witness, who was then serving a prison sentence, during the recess. The trial judge, on his own initiative, admonished the witness in great detail as to what would happen if he lied under oath. Defendant's attorney objected, pointing out that the State's witnesses had not been so admonished and contending that the trial judge had exerted on the mind of the witness such duress that the witness could not freely and voluntarily decide whether or not to testify, thereby depriving defendant of his defense and of due process of law by coercing the only defense witness into refusing to testify. In affirming, the criminal appellate court rejected defense counsel's contentions but did state that it did not condone the manner of admonition.

On certiorari, the Court disagreed and held that the trial judge's threatening remarks, directed only at the single witness for the defense, effectively drove that witness off the stand, which deprived defendant of due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Court reversed defendant's conviction.

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