350 U.S. 359 (1956), 72, Costello v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 72. Argued January 16-17, 1956
Citation:350 U.S. 359, 76 S.Ct. 406, 100 L.Ed. 397
Party Name:Costello v. United States
Case Date:March 05, 1956
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 359

350 U.S. 359 (1956)

76 S.Ct. 406, 100 L.Ed. 397



United States

No. 72. Argued January 16-17, 1956

United States Supreme Court

March 5, 1956




A defendant in a criminal case in a federal court may be required to stand trial, and his conviction may be sustained, where only hearsay evidence was presented to the grand jury which indicted him. Pp. 359-364.

(a) An indictment based solely on hearsay evidence does not violate the provision of the Fifth Amendment that "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury. . . ." Pp. 361-363.

(b) In the exercise of its power to supervise the administration of justice in the federal courts, this Court declines to establish a rule permitting defendants in criminal cases to challenge indictments on the ground that they are not supported by adequate or competent evidence. Pp. 363-364.

221 F.2d 668, affirmed.

BLACK, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari in this case to consider a single question:

May a defendant be required to stand trial and a conviction be sustained where only hearsay evidence was presented to the grand jury which indicted him?

350 U.S. 819.

Petitioner, Frank Costello, was indicted for wilfully attempting to evade payment of income taxes due the

Page 360

United [76 S.Ct. 407] States for the years 1947, 1948, and 1949.1 The charge was that petitioner falsely and fraudulently reported less income than he and his wife actually received during the taxable years in question. Petitioner promptly filed a motion for inspection of the minutes of the grand jury and for a dismissal of the indictment. His motion was based on an affidavit stating that he was firmly convinced there could have been no legal or competent evidence before the grand jury which indicted him, since he had reported all his income and paid all taxes due. The motion was denied. At the trial which followed, the Government offered evidence designed to show increases is Costello's net worth in an attempt to prove that he had received more income during the years in question than he had reported.2 To establish its case, the Government called and examined 144 witnesses and introduced 368 exhibits. All of the testimony and documents related to business transactions and expenditures by petitioner and his wife. The prosecution concluded its case by calling three government agents. Their investigations had produced the evidence used against petitioner at the trial. They were allowed to summarize the vast amount of evidence already heard, and to introduce computations showing, if correct, that petitioner and his wife had received far greater income than they had reported. We have held such summarizations admissible in a "net worth" case like this. United States v. Johnson, 319 U.S. 503.

Page 361

Counsel for petitioner asked each government witness at the trial whether he had appeared before the grand jury which returned the indictment. This cross-examination developed the fact that the three investigating officers had been the only witnesses before the grand jury. After the Government concluded its case, petitioner again moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground that the only evidence before the grand jury was "hearsay," since the three officers had no firsthand knowledge of the transactions upon which their computations were based. Nevertheless, the trial...

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