US playwright Arthur Miller has been convicted of contempt of Congress.
During the investigation 41-year-old Mr Miller, who is married to Hollywood movie star Marilyn Monroe, refused to reveal the names of alleged Communist writers with whom he had attended five or six meetings in New York in 1947.
He was said to be co-operative in all other aspects of the hearing but told the committee his conscience would not permit him to give the names of others and bring possible trouble to them.
‘Exposure for exposure’s sake’
The guilty verdict was announced in a 15-page “opinion” today by Federal Judge McLaughlin who presided over a six-day trial, which ended last week.
During the trial Mr Miller’s counsel, Joseph Rauh, had claimed that the questions his client had refused to answer had no reasonable connection with a passports inquiry.
He argued that the committee had simply wanted to expose the playwright and that “exposure for exposure’s sake” was illegal.
But Judge McLaughlin found that HUAC did have a valid legislative purpose in looking into the passport regulations and that Mr Miller had indeed experienced his own difficulties in obtaining a passport from the State Department.
The trial was told by the government that Mr Miller had joined the Communist party in 1943 but this was denied by the defendant who said that to the best of his belief he had never been a party member.
He did, however say that “there were two short periods – one in 1940 and one in 1947 – when I was sufficiently close to Communist Party activities so that someone might honestly have thought that I had become a member”.
Mr Miller was not in court when the guilty verdict was announced. The maximum punishment for contempt of Congress is one year in jail, a fine of £357 or both.
No date was fixed for sentencing but it is understood the case will automatically go to appeal.
After the trial Mr Miller, who will remain on bail pending the next legal step, said through a spokesman: “I have no comment to make, nor has my wife.”
The case is now bound to call into question the whole system of Congressional inquiries and their impingement on individual rights.