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Billie Sol Estes and the Supreme Court

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While I haven't studied the Billie Sol Estes aspect of the case as closely as others, I have always found certain aspects of his story intriguing.

Well, the other day I decided to follow-up on one aspect. While many know Billie Sol was convicted of a crime while Kennedy was President, few realize his conviction was thrown out by the Supreme Court (by a 5-4 vote) while his crony Johnson was President. This raises the question, IMO, of whether Johnson used his influence to get Billie Sol a temporary hall pass.

Well, the other day I came across the decision online.

I'd guessed that Clark (a Johnson crony with probable mob ties), Goldberg (a man who was easily manipulated by Johnson), and Warren (a man who was easily manipulated by Johnson), voted with the majority.

And I was right.

Clark actually wrote the opinion. He was joined by Warren, Douglas, Goldberg, and Harlan, who voted with the majority but offered a second opinion.

Stewart, Black, Brennan, and White dissented.


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In 1984 Billie Sol Estes sought a grant of immunity from the U.S. Department of Justice in order that he could disclose the circumstances surrounding a number of crimes of which he had knowledge, including a series of murders.

Among other crimes he was willing to disclose were the circumstances surrounding the payment of a $500,000 bribe that he alleged he arranged to be made to Supreme Court Justice Thomas Clark.

While the Justice Department over a period of months showed good faith in its consideration of giving a grant of immunity to Billie Sol Estes, the effort collapsed when Billie Sol suddenly had a change of heart and refused to cooperate or take any further action in the matter for reasons known only to himself. U.S. Marshal Clint Peoples later privately expressed an opinion as to why he thought this had happened.

Earlier in 1984, Billie Sol had testified before the grand jury in Robertson County, Texas, as to the 1961 murder of U.S. Department of Agriculture employee Henry Marshall. This occurred after John C. Paschall, District/County Attorney for Robertson County, wrote a letter to Estes’ attorneys on March 20, 1984, in which he stated, “This letter is to confirm our previous oral agreement regarding transactional immunity for your client, Billie Sol Estes. As the elected County Attorney, with felony jurisdiction, for Robertson County, Texas, I agree that Mr. Estes will not be criminally prosecuted regarding any of the transactions, occurrences, events, or alleged criminal offenses about which he might testify directly or indirectly before the Robertson County grand jury or any other statements given orally or in writing to any person concerning the above matters.” Those interested in reading further about this case are directed to a detailed article “The Killing of Henry Marshall” by Bill Adler published in The Texas Observer of November 7, 1986.

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