356 U.S. 369 (1958), 87, Sherman v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 87
Citation:356 U.S. 369, 78 S.Ct. 819, 2 L.Ed.2d 848
Party Name:Sherman v. United States
Case Date:May 19, 1958
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 369

356 U.S. 369 (1958)

78 S.Ct. 819, 2 L.Ed.2d 848

Sherman

v.

United States

No. 87

United States Supreme Court

May 19, 1958

Argued January 16,1958

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

Syllabus

At petitioner's trial in a Federal District Court for selling narcotics in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 174, he relied on the defense of entrapment. From the undisputed testimony of the Government's witnesses, it appeared that a government informer had met petitioner at a doctor's office where both were being treated to cure narcotics addiction, the informer asked petitioner to help him to obtain narcotics for his own use, petitioner seemed reluctant to do so, the informer persisted, and finally petitioner made several small purchases of narcotics and let the informer have half of each amount purchased at cost plus expenses. By prearrangement, other government agents then obtained evidence of three similar sales to the informer, for which petitioner was indicted. Except for a record of two convictions nine and five years previously, there was no evidence that petitioner himself was in the trade, or that he showed a "ready complaisance" to the informer's request. The factual issue whether the informer had persuaded the otherwise unwilling petitioner to make the sale or whether petitioner was already predisposed to do so and exhibited only the natural hesitancy of one acquainted with the narcotics trade was submitted to the jury, which found petitioner guilty.

Held: on the record in this case, entrapment was established as a matter of law, and petitioner's conviction is reversed. Pp. 370-378.

(a) Entrapment occurs only when the criminal conduct was "the product of the creative activity" of law enforcement officials. P. 372.

(b) The undisputed testimony of the Government's witnesses established entrapment as a matter of law. P. 373.

(c) Although the informer was not being paid, the Government cannot disown him or disclaim responsibility for his actions, since he was an active government informer who was himself awaiting trial on narcotics charges, for which he was later given a suspended sentence. Pp. 373-374.

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(d) It make no difference that the sales for which petitioner as convicted occurred after a series of sales, since they were not independent acts subsequent to the inducement, but were part of a course of conduct which was the product of the inducement. P. 374.

(e) The Government cannot make such use of an informer and then claim disassociation through ignorance of the way in which he operated. Pp. 374-375.

(f) The evidence was insufficient to overcome the defense of entrapment by showing that petitioner evinced a "ready complaisance" to accede to the informer's request. Pp. 375-376.

(g) This Court adheres to the doctrine of the Court's opinion in Sorrells v. United States, 287 U.S. 435, and declines to reassess the doctrine of entrapment according to the principles announced in the separate opinion Mr. Justice Roberts in that case, such issues not having been raised by the parties either in this Court or in the lower courts. Pp. 376-378.

240 F.2d 949 reversed, and cause remanded.

WARREN, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The issue before us is whether petitioner's conviction should be set aside on the ground that, as a matter of law, the defense of entrapment was established. Petitioner was convicted under an indictment charging three sales of narcotics in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 174. A previous conviction had been reversed on account of improper instructions as to the issue of entrapment. 200 F.2d 880. In the second trial, as in the first, petitioner's defense was

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a claim of entrapment: an agent of the Federal Government induced him to take part in illegal transactions when otherwise he would not have done so.

In late August, 1951, Kalchinian, a government informer, first met petitioner at a doctor's office where apparently both were being treated to be cured of narcotics addition. Several accidental meetings followed, either at the doctor's office or at the pharmacy where both filled their prescriptions from the doctor. From mere greetings, conversation progressed to a discussion of mutual experiences and problems, including their attempts to overcome addiction to narcotics. Finally Kalchinian asked petitioner if he knew of a good source of narcotics. He asked petitioner to supply him with a source, because he was not responding to treatment. From the first, petitioner tried to avoid the issue. Not until after a number of repetitions of the request, predicated on Kalchinian's presumed suffering, did petitioner finally acquiesce. Several times thereafter, he obtained a quantity of narcotics which he shared with Kalchinian. Each time petitioner told Kalchinian that the total cost of narcotics he obtained was twenty-five dollars, and that Kalchinian owed him fifteen dollars. The informer thus bore the cost of his share of the narcotics plus the taxi and other expenses necessary to obtain the drug. After several such sales, Kalchinian informed agents of the Bureau of Narcotics that he had another seller for them. On three occasions during November, 1951, Government agents observed petitioner give narcotics to Kalchinian in return for money supplied by the Government.

At the trial, the factual issue was whether the informer had convinced an otherwise unwilling person to commit a criminal act, or whether petitioner was already predisposed to commit the act and exhibited only the natural hesitancy of one acquainted with the narcotics trade.

Page 372

The issue of entrapment went to the jury,1 and a conviction resulted. Petitioner was sentenced to imprisonment for ten years. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed. 240 F.2d 949. We granted certiorari. 353 U.S. 935.

In Sorrells v. United States, 287 U.S. 435, this Court firmly recognized the defense of entrapment in the federal courts. The intervening years have in no way detracted from the principles underlying that decision. The function of law enforcement is the prevention of crime and the apprehension of criminals. Manifestly, that function does not include the manufacturing of crime. Criminal activity is such that stealth and strategy [78 S.Ct. 821] are necessary weapons in the arsenal of the police officer. However,

A different question is presented when the criminal design originates with the officials of the government, and they implant in the mind of an innocent person the disposition to commit the alleged offense and induce its commission in order that they may prosecute.

287 U.S. at 442. The stealth and strategy become as objectionable police methods as the coerced confession and the unlawful search. Congress could not have intended that its statutes were to be enforced by tempting innocent persons into violations.

However, the fact that government agents "merely afford opportunities or facilities for the commission of the offense does not" constitute entrapment. Entrapment occurs only when the criminal conduct was "the product of the creative activity" of law-enforcement officials. (Emphasis supplied.) See 287 U.S. at 441, 451. To determine whether entrapment has been established, a line must be drawn between the trap for the unwary innocent and the trap for the unwary criminal. The principles

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by which the courts are to make this determination were outlined in Sorrells. On the one hand, at trial, the accused may examine the conduct of the government agent; and, on the other hand, the accused will be subjected to an "appropriate and searching inquiry into his own conduct and predisposition" as bearing on his claim of innocence. See 287 U.S. at 451.

We conclude from the evidence that entrapment was established as a matter of law. In so holding, we are not choosing between conflicting witnesses, nor judging credibility. Aside from recalling Kalchinian, who was the Government's witness, the defense called no witnesses. We reach our conclusion from the undisputed testimony of the prosecution's witnesses.

It is patently clear that petitioner was induced by Kalchinian. The informer himself testified that, believing petitioner to be undergoing a cure for narcotics addiction, he nonetheless sought to persuade petitioner to obtain for him a source of narcotics. In Kalchinian's own words we are told of the accidental, yet recurring, meetings, the ensuing conversations concerning mutual experiences in regard to narcotics addiction, and then of Kalchinian's resort to sympathy. One request was not enough, for Kalchinian tells us that additional ones were necessary to overcome, first, petitioner's refusal, then has evasiveness, and then his hesitancy in order to achieve capitulation. Kalchinian not only procured a source of narcotics, but apparently also induced petitioner to return to the habit. Finally, assured of a catch, Kalchinian informed the authorities so that they could close the net. The Government cannot disown Kalchinian and insist it is not responsible for his actions. Although he was not being paid, Kalchinian was an active government informer who had but recently been the instigatory of at least

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two other prosecutions.2 Undoubtedly the impetus for such achievements was the fact that, [78 S.Ct. 822] in 1951, Kalchinian was himself under criminal charges for illegally selling narcotics, and had not yet been sentenced.3 It makes to difference that the sales for which petitioner was convicted occurred after a series of sales. They were not independent acts subsequent to the inducement, but part of a course of conduct which was the product of the inducement. In his testimony, the federal...

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