347 U.S. 62 (1954), 121, Walder v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 121
Citation:347 U.S. 62, 74 S.Ct. 354, 98 L.Ed. 503
Party Name:Walder v. United States
Case Date:February 01, 1954
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 62

347 U.S. 62 (1954)

74 S.Ct. 354, 98 L.Ed. 503



United States

No. 121

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 1, 1954

Argued November 30, 1953




Because heroin had been obtained from petitioner through unlawful search and seizure, its use in evidence was suppressed on petitioner's motion, and an indictment against him for its possession was dismissed on the Government's motion. In his subsequent trial for other illicit transactions in narcotics, petitioner testified on direct examination that he had never purchased, sold or possessed any narcotics. In order to impeach this testimony, the Government introduced the testimony of an officer who had participated in the unlawful search and seizure of the heroin involved in the earlier proceeding and the chemist who had analyzed it.

Held: Petitioner's assertion on direct examination that he had never possessed any narcotics opened the door, solely for the purpose of attacking petitioner's credibility, to evidence of the heroin unlawfully seized in connection with the earlier proceeding. Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, and Agnello v. United States, 269 U.S. 20, distinguished. Pp. 62-66.

201 F.2d 715, affirmed.

FRANKFURTER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

[74 S.Ct. 355] In May, 1950, petitioner was indicted in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri for purchasing and possessing one grain of heroin. Claiming that the heroin capsule had been obtained through an unlawful search and seizure, petitioner moved

Page 63

to suppress it. The motion was granted, and shortly thereafter, on the Government's motion, the case against petitioner was dismissed.

In January of 1952, petitioner was again indicted, this time for four other illicit transactions in narcotics. The Government's case consisted principally of the testimony of two drug addicts who claimed to have procured the illicit stuff from petitioner under the direction of federal agents. The only witness for the defense was the defendant himself, petitioner here. He denied any narcotics dealings with the two Government informers, and attributed the testimony against him to personal hostility.

Early on his direct examination, petitioner testified as follows:

Q. Now, first, Mr. Walder, before we go further in your testimony, I want to you [sic] tell the Court and jury whether, not referring to these informers in this case, but whether you have ever sold any narcotics to anyone.

A. I have never sold any narcotics to anyone in my life.

Q. Have you ever had any narcotics in your possession, other than what may have been given to you by a physician for an ailment?

A. No.

Q. Now, I will ask you one more thing. Have you ever handed or given any narcotics to anyone as a gift or in any other manner without the receipt of any money or any other compensation?

A. I have not.

Q. Have you ever even acted as, say, have you acted as a conduit for the purpose of handling what you knew to be a narcotic from one person to another?

A. No, Sir.

Page 64

On cross-examination, in response to a question by Government counsel making reference to this direct testimony, petitioner reiterated his assertion that he had never purchased, sold or possessed any narcotics. Over the defendant's objection, the Government then questioned him about the heroin capsule unlawfully seized from his home in his presence back in February, 1950. The defendant stoutly denied that any narcotics were taken from him at that time.1 The Government then put on the stand one of the officers who had participated in the unlawful search and seizure, and also the chemist who had analyzed the heroin capsule there seized. The trial judge admitted this evidence, but carefully charged the jury that it was not to be used to determine whether the defendant had committed the crimes here charged, but solely for the purpose of impeaching the defendant's credibility. The defendant was convicted, and the...

To continue reading