365 U.S. 85 (1961), 53, Campbell v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 53
Citation:365 U.S. 85, 81 S.Ct. 421, 5 L.Ed.2d 428
Party Name:Campbell v. United States
Case Date:January 23, 1961
Court:United States Supreme Court

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365 U.S. 85 (1961)

81 S.Ct. 421, 5 L.Ed.2d 428



United States

No. 53

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 23, 1961

Argued December 6, 1960




During a trial in a Federal District Court at which petitioners were convicted of a federal crime, a government witness testified on cross-examination that, while being interviewed by a federal agent, he had made and signed a statement which had been written down by the agent. On motion of petitioners under the so-called Jencks Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3500, the Court directed the Government to produce the document. Government counsel denied possession of such a document, but admitted possession of a report written by a federal agent summarizing an interview with that witness. The trial judge held an inquiry in the jury's absence, at the conclusion of which he refused to order the Government to deliver the agent's report to petitioners and also denied their motion to strike the testimony of the witness. He showed the report to the witness, who denied that it was his statement, and he refused to call as a witness the agent who made the report, though he said that the defendants could do so if they wished.


1. Because of errors in the conduct of the inquiry, petitioners are entitled to a reexamination of their motion for production of the witness' pretrial statements and their motion to strike his testimony. Pp. 86-98.

(a) The circumstances of this case required that the judge, of his own motion, call the agent who signed the report or require the Government to do so, since the agent was readily available and could explain where he got the information and what had become of the original writing. Pp. 94-96.

(b) The judge erred in relying upon the witness to supply the information he sought, since the very question to be determined was whether the defense should have the document for use in cross-examining the witness and possibly impeaching his testimony. Pp. 96-98.

(c) Failure of the judge to call for the testimony of the agent who signed the report foreclosed a proper determination of petitioners' motion to strike the testimony of the witness. P.98.

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(d) The record affords this Court no opportunity to decide the important question as to the construction and application of 18 U.S.C. § 3500(d), since it does not show whether such a paper as that described by the witness existed and was destroyed, or the circumstances of its destruction, nor can it be known without the benefit of the testimony of the agent who interviewed the witness and prepared the report. P. 98.

2. The judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the conviction is vacated, and the case is remanded to the District Court for further proceedings. Pp. 98-99.

(a) The District Court is directed to hold a new inquiry consistent with this opinion, to supplement the record with new findings, and to enter a new final judgment of conviction if it concludes to reaffirm its former rulings. Pp. 98-99.

(b) If the District Court concludes that the Government should have been required to deliver the report or other statement to petitioners, or that it should have granted their motion to strike the witness' testimony, it will vacate the judgment of conviction and grant petitioners a new trial. P. 99.

269 F.2d 688, judgment vacated and cause remanded.

BRENNAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

After a government witness testifies on direct examination in a federal criminal prosecution, the trial court is required, under the so-called Jencks Act,1 on motion of

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the defendant, to order the United States to produce, for impeachment purposes, defined pretrial statements of the witness, or parts of such statements as determined under subsection (c), which relate to the subject matter of his trial testimony and are in the possession of the United States. The conviction of the petitioners in the District Court for the District of Massachusetts for bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113 was sustained by the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. 269 F.2d 688. During the trial, the court ordered the Government to produce a document described on cross-examination by one of its witnesses in terms which satisfy the definition of a "statement" under the Act. The Government denied having possession of such a document. It did, however,

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admit possession of an Interview Report of an interview by an FBI agent with that witness, but contended that this report fell outside the statute. The trial judge held an inquiry without the jury present, at the conclusion of which he refused to order the United States to deliver the Interview Report to the petitioners, and also denied their motion to strike the testimony of the witness. The procedure at that inquiry raises questions important in the administration of the Jencks Act, and we granted certiorari limited to the review of those questions. 362 U.S. 909.

The government witness was Dominic Staula, a depositor who was in the bank at the time of the robbery. On direct examination, he identified the petitioner Lester as

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one of the robbers. When asked on cross-examination whether he made any statements to government agents before the trial, he said that an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who interviewed him during the week following the robbery wrote down such a statement. His recollection of what occurred at the interview was not entirely clear,2 but the trial judge ruled that he had made a statement satisfying the requirements [81 S.Ct. 424] of the Jencks Act, and ordered the United States to produce it. The Assistant

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United States Attorney presenting the Government's case stated that he had no such paper as the witness described. He stated further that the only document in the possession of the prosecution was not a "statement" within the statute, but a typed Interview Report3 of FBI Special Agent Toomey prepared and [81 S.Ct. 425] transcribed after the interview at a time unknown to the Assistant. The Assistant refused to deliver the report to petitioners' counsel, but delivered it to the judge for his inspection.

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To the court's question whether the Government possessed

any statement that was copied by an FBI Agent which in any way would reflect a statement that this witness made and which he substantially adopted

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as the statement,

the Assistant replied "No, your Honor, we don't." To the further question whether "the United States [has] in its possession any notes that were taken down by the FBI Agent at the time this witness was interviewed," the Assistant answered, "I do not have them in my possession, and I do not know whether they ever existed."

The Jencks Act limits access by defendants to such government papers as fit the Act's definition of "statements" which relate to the subject matter as to which the witness has testified, Palermo v. United States, 360 U.S. 343. However, the statute requires that the judge shall, on motion of the defendant, after a witness called by the United States has testified on direct examination, order the United States, for impeachment purposes, to produce any such "statements." To that extent, as the legislative history makes clear, the Jencks Act "reaffirms" our holding in Jencks v. United States, 353 U.S. 657, that the defendant on trial in a federal criminal prosecution is entitled, for impeachment purposes, to relevant and competent statements of a government witness in possession of the Government touching the events or activities as to which the witness has testified at the trial. S.Rep. No. 981, 85th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 3. And see H.R.Rep. No. 700, 85th Cong., 1st Sess., pp. 3-4. The command of the statute is thus designed to further the fair and just administration of criminal justice, a goal of which the judiciary is the special guardian.

After an overnight recess, the trial judge conducted an inquiry without the jury present to take testimony and hear argument of counsel. Plainly enough, this was a proper, even a required, proceeding in the circumstances. Determination of the question whether the Government should be ordered to produce government papers could not be made from a mere inspection of the Interview Report, but only with the help of extrinsic evidence. The

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situation was different from that governed by subsection (c), in which the Government admits that a document in its possession is a "statement" but submits the paper for the judge's in camera inspection to delete matter which the Government contends does not relate to the subject matter of the testimony of the witness. The situation was similar to that in Palermo, where the Government also contended that a paper in its possession was not a "statement." We there approved the procedure of taking extrinsic testimony out of the presence of the jury to assist the [81 S.Ct. 426] judge in reaching his determination whether to order production of the paper. We said, at 354-355,

It is also the function of the trial judge to decide, in light of the circumstances of each case, what, if any, evidence extrinsic to the statement itself may or must be offered to prove the nature of the statement.

In this case, the aid of extrinsic evidence was required to answer the following questions bearing on the petitioners' motions:

Did Toomey write down what Staula told him at the interview? If so, did Toomey give Staula the paper "to read over, to make sure that it was right," and did Staula sign it?

Was the Interview Report the paper Staula described, or a copy of that paper? In either case, as the trial judge ruled, the Interview Report would be a producible "statement" under subsection (e)(1). "Statements" under that subsection are not limited to such as the witness has himself set down on paper. They...

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