Bruno v. United States, No. 300

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtFRANKFURTER
Citation308 U.S. 287,60 S.Ct. 198,84 L.Ed. 257
PartiesBRUNO v. UNITED STATES
Decision Date04 December 1939
Docket NumberNo. 300

308 U.S. 287
60 S.Ct. 198
84 L.Ed. 257
BRUNO

v.

UNITED STATES.

No. 300.
Argued Nov. 6, 1939.
Decided Dec. 4, 1939.

Page 288

Messrs. Samuel B. Wasserman and M. Michael Edelstein, both of New York City, for petitioner.

Mr. O. John Rogge, Asst. Atty. Gen., for respondent.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 288-290 intentionally omitted]

Page 291

Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

In affirming the conviction of Jerry Bruno, who, with eighty-seven others, was convicted of a conspiracy to violate the narcotic laws, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dealt with an important question in the administration of federal criminal justice in such a way as to lead us to grant certiorari, 308 U.S. 536, 60 S.Ct. 112, 84 L.Ed. —-.

Some of Bruno's co-defendants took the witness-stand. He did not. The trial court gave the following instructions to the jury regarding the attitude to be observed by them towards the accused as a witness: 'It is the privilege of a defendant to testify as a witness if, and only when, he so elects; and when he does testify his credibility is to be determined in the light of his interest, which usually is greater than that of any other witness, and is therefore a matter which may seriously affect the credence that shall be given to his testimony.'

Page 292

Bruno requested this additional instruction: 'The failure of any defendant to take the witness stand and testify in his own behalf, does not create any presumption against him; the jury is charged that it must not permit that fact to weigh in the slightest degree against any such defendant, nor should this fact enter into the discussions or deliberations of the jury in any manner.'

The trial judge declined this request, saying 'I feel that I've already covered that.' The exception to this denial having been saved, the Circuit Court of Appeals found no error in the refusal, although confessing that the guidance which had been given the jury 'was not the equivalent of what the defendant had requested', United States v. Bruno, 2 Cir., 105 F.2d 921, 923. By this, we take it, the court below meant that the topic on which Bruno proffered an instruction had not been charged at all.

Therefore, the narrow question before us is whether in these circumstances Bruno had the indefeasible right to have the jury told in substance what he asked the judge to tell it. The issue is determined by a proper application of the Act of March 16, 1878, 20 Stat. 30, now 28 U.S.C.A. § 632, 28 U.S.C.A. § 632.1

That Act freed the accused in a federal prosecution from his common law disability as a witness. But Congress coupled his privilege to be a witness with...

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278 practice notes
  • Lakeside v. Oregon, No. 76-6942
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 22, 1978
    ...long been established that a defendant in a federal criminal trial has that right as a matter of statutory law. Bruno v. United States, 308 U.S. 287, 60 S.Ct. 198, 84 L.Ed. 257. 8. The petitioner also relies upon a remark in the dissenting opinion in United States v. Gainey, 380 U.S. 63, 73......
  • United States v. Agueci, No. 99
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • November 8, 1962
    ...827 was wholly dependent upon the success of the entire "chain". United States v. Bruno, 105 F.2d 921 (2d Cir.), rev'd on other grounds, 308 U.S. 287, 60 S.Ct. 198, 84 L.Ed. 257 (1939); see United States v. Aviles, 274 F.2d at 188. An individual associating himself with a "chain" conspiracy......
  • United States v. Spock, No. 7205-7208.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • July 11, 1969
    ...cert. denied 344 U.S. 864, 73 S.Ct. 105, 97 L.Ed. 670; cf. United States v. Bruno, 2 Cir., 1939, 105 F.2d 921, rev'd on other grounds, 308 U.S. 287, 60 S.Ct. 198, 84 L.Ed. 257. 20 We do not believe that section 462(a) is overbroad or vague. See Gara v. United States, 6 Cir., 1949, 178 F.2d ......
  • United States v. Spector, No. 21940 and 21883.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • December 14, 1951
    ..."The case of an accused who voluntarily takes the stand and the case of an accused who refrains from testifying (Bruno v. United States, 308 U.S. 287, 60 S.Ct. 198, 84 L.Ed. 257) are of course vastly different. Raffel v. United States, 271 U.S. 494, 46 S.Ct. 566, 70 L.Ed. 1054. His `volunta......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
278 cases
  • Lakeside v. Oregon, No. 76-6942
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 22, 1978
    ...long been established that a defendant in a federal criminal trial has that right as a matter of statutory law. Bruno v. United States, 308 U.S. 287, 60 S.Ct. 198, 84 L.Ed. 257. 8. The petitioner also relies upon a remark in the dissenting opinion in United States v. Gainey, 380 U.S. 63, 73......
  • United States v. Agueci, No. 99
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • November 8, 1962
    ...827 was wholly dependent upon the success of the entire "chain". United States v. Bruno, 105 F.2d 921 (2d Cir.), rev'd on other grounds, 308 U.S. 287, 60 S.Ct. 198, 84 L.Ed. 257 (1939); see United States v. Aviles, 274 F.2d at 188. An individual associating himself with a "chain" conspiracy......
  • United States v. Spock, No. 7205-7208.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • July 11, 1969
    ...cert. denied 344 U.S. 864, 73 S.Ct. 105, 97 L.Ed. 670; cf. United States v. Bruno, 2 Cir., 1939, 105 F.2d 921, rev'd on other grounds, 308 U.S. 287, 60 S.Ct. 198, 84 L.Ed. 257. 20 We do not believe that section 462(a) is overbroad or vague. See Gara v. United States, 6 Cir., 1949, 178 F.2d ......
  • United States v. Spector, No. 21940 and 21883.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • December 14, 1951
    ..."The case of an accused who voluntarily takes the stand and the case of an accused who refrains from testifying (Bruno v. United States, 308 U.S. 287, 60 S.Ct. 198, 84 L.Ed. 257) are of course vastly different. Raffel v. United States, 271 U.S. 494, 46 S.Ct. 566, 70 L.Ed. 1054. His `volunta......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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