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MICHEL V. LOUISIANA, 350 U. S. 91 (1955)

U.S. Supreme Court

Michel v. Louisiana, 350 U.S. 91 (1955)

Michel v. Louisiana

Argued November 9, 1955

Decided December 5, 1955*

350 U.S. 91


1. Louisiana law requires that objections to a grand jury be raised before the expiration of the third judicial day following the end of the grand jury's term or before trial, whichever is earlier. After expiration of the time allowed, these three Negro petitioners moved to quash their indictments on the ground that there was systematic exclusion of Negroes from the grand juries which indicted them. Their motions were denied, and each was convicted of a capital offense.

Held: in the circumstances of these cases, application of the rule to these petitioners did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 350 U. S. 92-102.

2. Michel was indicted on February 19 and presented for arraignment on February 23. He appeared without counsel, and arraignment was continued for one week. The record shows that counsel was appointed for him on March 2, the date the grand jury term expired. Counsel contended that he did not consider himself appointed until March 5, when he received written notice from the court. The motion to quash, not filed until March 9, was denied as being out of time.

Held: the finding of the lower courts that counsel was appointed March 2 is sustained. Since the appointed counsel, a lawyer experienced in state criminal practice, had adequate time to file the motion after his appointment, application of the rule was not unreasonable. Pp. 350 U. S. 95-96.

3. Poret fled from the State shortly after the crime was committed, and remained outside the State until long after the time for filing a motion to quash his indictment had expired. After returning to the State on October 3 and retaining counsel on October 26, he did not file his motion to quash until November 7 -- after he had been arraigned and had filed other motions which implied a waiver of his objections to the grand jury.

Held: Louisiana's rule requiring timely objections to the composition of a grand jury need not be suspended for the benefit of one who, by his own action, fails to avail himself of the state remedy; and there was no violation of due process in denying the motion as out of time. Pp. 350 U. S. 96-100.

Page 350 U. S. 92

4. Labat was indicted December 11, 1950, and arraigned on January 3, 1951. On January 5, 1951, the court appointed competent counsel for him, and the term of the grand jury that had indicted him did not expire until March, 1951. In January, 1952, court-appointed counsel withdrew from the case and another counsel was appointed, but motion to quash the indictment was not made until November 7, 1952.

Held: inadequacy of counsel will not be presumed from failure to file a pretrial motion where the matter was within counsel's discretion and there were valid reasons for not filing. In the circumstances of this case, there was no violation of due process in denying the motion as out of time. Pp. 350 U. S. 100-101.

225 La. 1040, 74 So.2d 207, and 226 La. 201, 75 So.2d 333, affirmed.

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