431 U.S. 174 (1977), 74-635, United States v. Wong

Docket Nº:No. 74-635
Citation:431 U.S. 174, 97 S.Ct. 1823, 52 L.Ed.2d 231
Party Name:United States v. Wong
Case Date:May 23, 1977
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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431 U.S. 174 (1977)

97 S.Ct. 1823, 52 L.Ed.2d 231

United States

v.

Wong

No. 74-635

United States Supreme Court

May 23, 1977

Argued December 6, 1976

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

A witness who, while under investigation for possible criminal activity, is called to testify before a grand jury and is later indicted for perjury in the testimony given before the grand jury, is not entitled to suppression of the false testimony on the ground that no effective warning of the Fifth Amendment privilege to remain silent had been given. Pp. 177-180.

(a) The Fifth Amendment testimonial privilege does not condone perjury, which is not justified by even the predicament of [97 S.Ct. 1824] being forced to choose between incriminatory truth and falsehood, as opposed to a refusal to answer. United States v. Knox, 396 U.S. 77; United States v. Mandujano, 425 U.S. 564. Pp. 178-179.

(b) Nor do Fifth Amendment due process requirements require suppression, since even where searching questions are made of a witness uninformed of the Fifth Amendment privilege of silence, "[o]ur legal system provides methods for challenging the Government's right to ask questions -- lying is not one of them." Bryson v. United States, 396 U.S. 64, 72. Pp. 179-180.

553 F.2d 576, reversed and remanded.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

BURGER, J., lead opinion

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

We granted certiorari to decide whether a witness who, while under investigation for possible criminal activity, is

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called to testify before a grand jury and who is later indicted for perjury committed before the grand jury, is entitled to have the false testimony suppressed on the ground that no effective warning of the Fifth Amendment privilege to remain silent was given.1

(1)

Rose Wong, the respondent, came to the United States from China in early childhood. She was educated in public schools in San Francisco, where she completed eight grades of elementary education. Because her husband does not speak English, respondent generally speaks in her native tongue in her household.

In September, 1973, respondent was subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in the Northern District of California. The grand jury was investigating illegal gambling and obstruction of state and local law enforcement in San Francisco. At the time of her grand jury appearance, the Government had received reports that respondent paid bribes to two undercover San Francisco police officers and agreed to make future payments to them. Before any interrogation began, respondent was advised of her Fifth Amendment privilege;2 she then denied having given money

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or gifts to police officers or having discussed gambling activities with them. It is undisputed that this testimony was false.

(2)

Respondent was indicted for perjury in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1623. She moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground that, due to her limited command of English, she had not understood the warning of her right not to answer incriminating questions. At a suppression hearing, defense counsel [97 S.Ct. 1825] called an interpreter and two language specialists as expert witnesses and persuaded the District Judge that respondent had not comprehended the prosecutor's explanation of the Fifth Amendment privilege;3 the court accepted respondent's testimony that she had thought she was required to answer all questions. Based upon informal oral findings to this effect, the District Court ordered the testimony suppressed as evidence of perjury.

Accepting the District Court's finding that respondent had not understood the warning, the Court of Appeals held that due process required suppression where

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