Estes v. Texas

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Estes v. Texas
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued April 1, 1965
Decided June 7, 1965
Full case name Billy Sol Estes v. Texas
Citations 381 U.S. 532 (more)
Holding
The televising over petitioner's objections of the courtroom proceedings of petitioner's criminal trial, in which there was widespread public interest, was inherently invalid as infringing the fundamental right to a fair trial guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Clark, joined by Warren, Douglas, Harlan, Goldberg
Concurrence Harlan
Dissent Stewart, joined by Black, Brennan, White
Dissent White, joined by Brennan
Dissent Brennan
Laws applied
U.S. Const. Amend. XIV

Estes v. Texas, 381 U.S. 532 (1965) was a case in which the United States Supreme Court overturned the swindling conviction of petitioner Billy Sol Estes, holding that his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights had been violated by the publicity associated with the pretrial hearing, which had been carried live on both television and radio. News photography was permitted throughout the trial and parts of it were broadcast as well.

There was no doubt that the Court was displeased with the intensive pretrial and trial coverage, but its biggest concern was the presence of cameras at the two-day long pretrial hearing. It included at least 12 still and television photographers, three microphones on the judge's bench, and several aimed at the jury's box and attorney's table. When it was time for the trial to be held, it was moved about 500 miles away and the judge had imposed rather severe restrictions on press coverage. However, the justices did mark the notion that cameras would return to courtrooms eventually:

It is said that the ever-advancing techniques of public communication and the adjustment of the public to its presence may bring about a change in the effect of telecasting upon the fairness of criminal trials. But we are not dealing here with future developments in the field of electronics. Our judgment cannot be rested on the hypothesis of tomorrow but must take the facts as they are presented today."

Indeed the facts did change with technology. Sixteen years later the Supreme Court ruled in Chandler v. Florida, 449 U.S. 560 (1981) that a state could allow the broadcast and still photography coverage of criminal trials.

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