HULL v. U.S.,
404 U.S. 893 (1971)

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U.S. Supreme Court

HULL v. U.S. , 404 U.S. 893 (1971)

404 U.S. 893

Ronald Preston HULL, petitioner,
No. 70-5331.

Supreme Court of the United States

October 19, 1971

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, dissenting.

On the morning of September 22, 1968, the petitioner and a companion, both Americans, were walking westward along highway 94 near Tecate, California, and were three-fourths of a mile from the Mexican border. Two federal customs agents stopped them, learned their iden-

Page 404 U.S. 893 , 894

tities, directed the pair to walk in roadside dust, and concluded that their shoeprints were similar to those the officers had seen only hours earlier in sand 'traps' some 50 yards south of the highway. [Footnote 1] Suspecting the two of smuggling contraband, the agents detained them while reinforcements arrived and backtracked in search of contraband which officers believed might have been hidden along the pair's path. During the probe two knapsacks containing marihuana were found at a spot 100 yards east of the point where the two had been stopped and near the trail which officers believed had been left by the petitioner and his companion. The officers then formally arrested them and afterwards traced what they suspected to be the pair's footprints to a railroad tunnel nearer the border leading into Mexico.

The two were convicted of smuggling marihuana at a trial before a jury. The Government was unable to produce direct evidence that the codefendants had actually crossed the border via the railroad tunnel. In fact, all the agents could claim was that they had traced what they believed to be the co-defendants' footprints into the mouth of the tunnel. Furthermore, no direct evidence was adduced to show, assuming the pair had crossed the border, that they had crossed with marihuana. Given the lack of direct evidence on any of these matters, however, the Government understandably desired to be more persuasive.

To shore up its case the Government introduced, over objection, testimony of an agent that the locality of these events had been 'possibly the hottest spot on the Mexican border for smuggling.' He was permitted to tell of his participation in six prior, unrelated investiga- [404 U.S. 893 , 895]

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