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WYATT V. UNITED STATES, 362 U. S. 525 (1960)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Wyatt v. United States, 362 U.S. 525 (1960)

Wyatt v. United States

No. 119

Argued January 13, 1960

Decided May 16, 1960

362 U.S. 525


Petitioner was tried and convicted in a Federal District Court of knowingly transporting a woman in interstate commerce for the purpose of prostitution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2421. At the trial, the woman, who had married petitioner since the date of the offense, was ordered over her objection and that of petitioner to testify for the prosecution.

Held: the ruling was correct, and the judgment is affirmed. Pp. 362 U. S. 525-531.

(a) Though the common law rule of evidence ordinarily permitting a defendant to exclude the adverse testimony of his or her spouse still applies in the federal courts, there is an exception which permits the defendant's wife to testify against him when she was the victim of a violation of § 2421. Pp. 362 U. S. 526-527.

(b) The privilege accorded by the general rule resides in the witness, as well as in the defendant. Pp. 362 U. S. 527-529.

(c) In view of the purpose of § 2421, a prostituted witness-wife may not protect her husband by declining to testify against him. Pp. 362 U. S. 529-530.

(d) A different conclusion is not required by the fact that the marriage took place after the commission of the offense. Pp. 362 U. S. 530-531.

263 F.2d 304, affirmed.

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