POINTER v. TEXAS

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
577
Petitioner 
Bob Granville Pointer
Respondent 
Texas
Advocates
(for the petitioner)
(for the respondent)
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Facts of the Case 

On the night of June 16, 1962, a man later identified by a witness as Bob Granville Pointer entered a 7-11 Food Store and robbed the manager, Kenneth W. Phillips, of more than $300 The man then fled the store, and Phillips observed him talking to another man at a nearby intersection. A police dog led officers across the street from the 7-11 store to the front yard of a nearby residence, where Pointer was standing. A search of Pointer’s person revealed eighty-one dollars in his billfold, and a later search revealed sixty-five dollars hidden in a discarded shoe.

The police arrested Pointer and Lloyd Earl Dillard and took them before a state judge for a preliminary hearing; the state charged them with robbing Phillips of $375 by assault, violence, or by putting in fear of life or bodily injury, in violation of Texas law. An assistant attorney general conducted the prosecution and examined witnesses, but neither of the defendants had a lawyer. Dillard tried to cross-examine Phillips, but Pointer did not.

Pointer was indicted on the robbery charge. At trial, Pointer testified on his own behalf, denying his alleged role in the robbery and swearing he had never been in the 7-11 store. The state offered a transcript of Phillips’ testimony as evidence because Phillips had since moved out of Texas and did not intend to return. The defense objected to the use of the transcript as a denial of Pointer’s right to confront a witness. The trial judge overruled because Pointer was present at the preliminary hearing, and Pointer was convicted of murder. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his conviction, rejecting Pointer’s claim that the use of the transcript violated his rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Question 

Did Texas violate Pointer’s Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by admitting evidence drawn from a preliminary hearing where Pointer was not represented by counsel?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for Pointer, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Right to Confront and Cross-Examine, Compulsory Process

Yes. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Hugo Black, the Court held that the Sixth Amendment’s right of confrontation required Texas to allow Pointer an opportunity to confront Dillard through counsel. Justice Black declined to answer whether the Sixth Amendment required Texas to appoint counsel to represent Pointer at a preliminary hearing. Justice Black described the history of the Sixth Amendment in the Court, writing that the Fourteenth Amendment imposed the right to counsel on the states. He emphasized the importance of a defendant’s right to confront witnesses against him and described it as a fundamental right.

Justice John Marshall Harlan II concurred in the result, rejecting the majority’s assumption that Sixth Amendment rights were incorporated and applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. Instead, he argued that a right of confrontation was implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.

Justice Potter Stewart concurred in the result, also disagreeing that the states were limited by the Sixth Amendment. He characterized the right to cross-examine as one of the safeguards essential to a fair trial.

Justice Arthur Goldberg concurred. He emphasized that the Court largely agreed that certain basic rights were fundamental and not to be denied by either state or federal governments under the Constitution.

Cite this Page
POINTER v. TEXAS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 10 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1964/1964_577>.
POINTER v. TEXAS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1964/1964_577 (last visited September 10, 2014).
"POINTER v. TEXAS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 10, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1964/1964_577.