FACTS - On March10, 1976 petitioner Otis Trammel was indicted with two others, Edwin Lee Roberts and Joseph Freeman, for importing Heroin into the United States from Thailand and the Philippine Islands and for conspiracy to import Heroin in violation 02 21 U.S. C.952 A. 926 A, and 96.3 the indictment also named six indicted Co-conspirators including petitioners wife Elizabeth Ann Trammel.
Prior to trail on this indictment, petitioner moved to sever his case from that of Roberts and Freeman advised the court that the government intended to call his wife as an adverse witness and asserted his claim to privilege to prevent her from testifying against him.
ISSUE - The Supreme Court was to consider the accused may invoke the privilege against adverse spousal testimony, to exclude the voluntary testimony of his wife.
DECISION OF THE COURT- Mr. Justice Stewart said that today the court in an almost unanimous opinion, declines the privilege, because of the changes in perception that reason and experience have wrought the court in this case accepts the same arguments the court rejected when the government first made them in the Hawkins case in 1958.
REASON OF THE COURT- Hawkins V. United States and Francis V. Southern Pacific Co.
CITATIONS – Funk V. United States 290 US 371, Hawkins V. United States 358 US 74, Wyatt V. United States 362 US 525, 528.
RULE OF LAW – The court concludes that the witness – spouse alone has the right to refuse to testify adversely or the witness may be neither compelled to testify nor from testifying.
DISSENT – Mr. Justice Stewart did not join in the opinion.