United States v. Crews
Annotate this Case
445 U.S. 463 (1980)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Crews, 445 U.S. 463 (1980)
United States v. Crews
Argued October 31, 1979
Decided March 25, 1980
445 U.S. 463
Immediately after being assaulted and robbed at gunpoint, the victim notified the police and gave them a full description of her assailant. Several days later, respondent, who matched the suspect's description, was seen by the police around the scene of the crime. After an attempt to photograph him proved unsuccessful, respondent was taken into custody, ostensibly as a suspected truant from school, and was detained at police headquarters, where he was briefly questioned, photographed, and then released. Thereafter, the victim identified respondent's photograph as that of her assailant. Respondent was again taken into custody and at a court-ordered lineup was identified by the victim. Respondent was then indicted for armed robbery and other offenses. On respondent's pretrial motion to suppress all identification testimony, the trial court found that respondent's initial detention at the police station constituted an arrest without probable cause, and accordingly ruled that the products of that arrest -- the photographic and lineup identifications -- could not be introduced at trial, but further held that the victim's ability to identify respondent in court was based upon independent recollection untainted by the intervening identifications, and that therefore such testimony was admissible. At trial, the victim once more identified respondent as her assailant, and respondent was convicted of armed robbery. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the in court identification testimony should have been excluded as a product of the violation of respondent's Fourth Amendment rights.
389 A.2d 277, reversed.
MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II-A, II-B, and II-C, concluding that:
The in-court identification need not be suppressed as the fruit of respondent's concededly unlawful arrest, but is admissible because the police's knowledge of respondent's identity and the victim's independent recollections of him both antedated the unlawful arrest, and were thus untainted by the constitutional violation. Pp. 445 U. S. 470-474, 445 U. S. 477.
(a) The victim's presence in the courtroom at respondent's trial was not the product of any police misconduct. Her identity was known long before there was any official misconduct, and her presence in court was thus not traceable to any Fourth Amendment violation. Pp. 445 U. S. 471-472.
(b) Nor did the illegal arrest infect the victim's ability to give accurate identification testimony. At trial, she merely retrieved her mnemonic representation of the assailant formed at the time of the crime, compared it to the figure of respondent in the courtroom, and positively identified him as the robber. Pp. 445 U. S. 472-473.
(c) Insofar as respondent challenges his own presence at trial, he cannot claim immunity from prosecution simply because his appearance in court was precipitated by an unlawful arrest. Respondent is not himself a suppressible "fruit," and the illegality of his detention cannot deprive the Government of the opportunity to prove his guilt through the introduction of evidence wholly untainted by the police misconduct. P. 445 U. S. 474.
MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, joined by MR. JUSTICE STEWART and MR. JUSTICE STEVENS, concluded in Part II-D that the Court need not decide whether respondent's person should be considered evidence, and therefore a possible "fruit" of police misconduct, since the Fourth Amendment violation in question yielded nothing of evidentiary value that the police did not already have. Respondent's unlawful arrest served merely to link together two extant ingredients in his identification. While the exclusionary rule enjoins the Government from benefiting from evidence it has unlawfully obtained, it does not reach backward to taint information that was in official hands prior to any illegality. Davis v. Mississippi, 394 U. S. 721, distinguished. Pp. 445 U. S. 474-477.
BRENNAN, J., announced the Court's judgment and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II-A, II-B, and II-C, in which STEWART, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Part II-D, in which STEWART and STEVENS, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, in which BLACKMUN, J., joined, post, p. 445 U. S. 477. WHITE, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result, in which BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 445 U. S. 477. MARSHALL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.