Stovall v. Denno
388 U.S. 293 (1967)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Stovall v. Denno, 388 U.S. 293 (1967)

Stovall v. Denno

No. 254

Argued February 16, 1967

Decided June 12, 1967

388 U.S. 293

Syllabus

Petitioner was convicted and sentenced to death for murdering one Dr. Behrendt. He had been arrested the day after the murder, and, without being afforded time to retain counsel, was taken by police officers, to one of whom he was handcuffed, to be viewed at the hospital by Mrs. Behrendt, who had been seriously wounded by her husband's assailant. After observing him and hearing him speak as directed by an officer, Mrs. Behrendt identified petitioner as the murderer. Mrs. Behrendt and the officers testified at petitioner's trial as to the hospital identification, and she also made an in-court identification of the petitioner. Following affirmance of his conviction by the highest state court, petitioner sought habeas corpus in the District Court, claiming that Mrs. Behrendt's identification testimony violated his Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The District Court after hearing argument on an unrelated claim, dismissed the petition. The Court of Appeals, en banc, vacated a panel decision reversing the dismissal of the petition on constitutional grounds, and affirmed the District Court.

Held:

1. The constitutional rule established in today's decisions in United States v. Wade and Gilbert v. California, ante pp. 388 U. S. 218, 388 U. S. 263, has application only to cases involving confrontations for identification purposes conducted in the absence of counsel after this date. Cf. Linkletter v. Walker,381 U. S. 618; Tehan v. Shott,382 U. S. 406; Johnson v. New Jersey,384 U. S. 719. Pp. 388 U. S. 296-301.

2. Though the practice of showing suspects singly for purposes of identification has been widely condemned, a violation of due process of law in the conduct of a confrontation depends on the totality of the surrounding circumstances. There was no due process denial in the confrontation here, since Mrs. Behrendt was the only person who could exonerate the suspect; she could not go to the police station for the usual lineup, and there was no way of knowing how long she would live. Pp. 388 U. S. 301-302.

355 F.2d 731, affirmed.

Page 388 U. S. 294

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