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Merrell v. United States

United States Supreme Court
463 U.S. 1230 (1983)


The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted surveillance of a building in Detroit that was believed to be an operation site for illegal gambling. The surveillance exposed an illegal dice game. As a result, 13 people were charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 1955, which prohibits the conducting, financing, management, supervision, direction, or owning of all or part of an illegal-gambling business. Eight co-defendants, including the lessor of the premises, the game operator, three dealers, and three watchmen, pleaded guilty. Four of the five remaining co-defendants were acquitted of all charges based on a finding that the four co-defendants were mere bettors. The evidence established that the last co-defendant, Buster Merrell (defendant), served coffee to the bettors during the gambling operations, stacked tables and chairs after the games, and cleaned the gambling area. Merrell was convicted of the substantive offense of conducting an illegal-gambling business. Merrell appealed, claiming that his actions did not rise to the level of conducting an illegal-gambling business. The court of appeals held that the correct standard to use in evaluating Merrell’s guilt was whether Merrell had performed any act, duty, or function that was necessary or helpful to the operation of the enterprise. Merrell petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

Dissent (White, J.)

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