432 U.S. 98 (1977), 75-871, Manson v. Brathwaite

Docket Nº:No. 75-871
Citation:432 U.S. 98, 97 S.Ct. 2243, 53 L.Ed.2d 140
Party Name:Manson v. Brathwaite
Case Date:June 16, 1977
Court:United States Supreme Court

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432 U.S. 98 (1977)

97 S.Ct. 2243, 53 L.Ed.2d 140




No. 75-871

United States Supreme Court

June 16, 1977

Argued November 29, 1976




Glover, a trained Negro undercover state police officer, purchased heroin from a seller through the open doorway of an apartment while standing for two or three minutes within two feet of the seller in a hallway illuminated by natural light. A few minutes later, Glover described the seller to another police officer as being

a colored man, approximately five feet eleven inches tall, dark complexion, black hair, short Afro style, and having high cheekbones, and of heavy build.

The other police officer, suspecting from the description [97 S.Ct. 2245] that respondent might be the seller, left a police photograph of respondent at the office of Glover, who viewed it two days later and identified it as the picture of the seller. In a Connecticut court, respondent was charged with, and convicted of, possession and sale of heroin, and at his trial, held some eight months after the crime, the photograph was received in evidence without objection and Glover testified that there was no doubt that the person shown in the photograph was respondent and also made a positive in-court identification without objection. After the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, respondent filed a petition for habeas corpus in Federal District Court, alleging that the admission of the identification testimony at his state trial deprived him of due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The District Court dismissed the petition, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that evidence as to the photograph should have been excluded, regardless of reliability, because the examination of the single photograph was unnecessary and suggestive, and that the identification was unreliable in any event.

Held: The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not compel the exclusion of the identification evidence. Pp. 109-117.

(a) Reliability is the linchpin in determining the admissibility of identification testimony for confrontations occurring both prior to and after Stovall v. Denno, 388 U.S. 293, wherein it was held that the determination depends on the "totality of the circumstances." Id. at 302. The factors to be weighed against the corrupting effect of the suggestive procedure in assessing reliability are set out in Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188, and include the witness' opportunity to view the criminal

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at the time of the crime, the witness' degree of attention, the accuracy of his prior description of the criminal, the level of certainty demonstrated at the confrontation, and the time between the crime and the confrontation. Pp. 109-114.

(b) Under the totality of the circumstances in this case, there doe not est "a very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification." Simmons v. United States, 390 U.S. 377, 384. Glover, no casual observer but a trained police officer, had a sufficient opportunity to view the suspect, accurately described him, positively identified respondent's photograph as that of the suspect, and made the photograph identification only two days after the crime. Pp. 114-117.

527 F.2d 363, reversed.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 117. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 118.

BLACKMUN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the issue as to whether the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment compels the exclusion, in a state criminal trial, apart from any consideration of reliability, of pretrial identification evidence obtained by a police procedure that was both suggestive and unnecessary. This Court's decisions in Stovall v. Denno, 388 U.S. 293 (1967), and Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188 (1972), are particularly implicated.


Jimmy D. Glover, a full-time trooper of the Connecticut State Police, in 1970 was assigned to the Narcotics Division in an undercover capacity. On May 5 of that year, about

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7:45 p.m., e.d.t., and while there was still daylight, Glover and Henry Alton Brown, an informant, went to an apartment building at 201 Westland, in Hartford, for the purpose of purchasing narcotics from "Dickie Boy" Cicero, a known narcotics dealer. Cicero, it was thought, lived on the third floor of that [97 S.Ct. 2246] apartment building. Tr. 45-46, 68.1 Glover and Brown entered the building, observed by backup Officers D'Onofrio and Gaffey, and proceeded by stairs to the third floor. Glover knocked at the door of one of the two apartments served by the stairway.2 The area was illuminated by natural light from a window in the third floor hallway. Id. at 27-28. The door was opened 12 to 18 inches in response to the knock. Glover observed a man standing at the door and, behind him, a woman. Brown identified himself. Glover then asked for "two things" of narcotics. Id. at 29. The man at the door held out his hand, and Glover gave him two $10 bills. The door closed. Soon the man returned and handed Glover two glassine bags.3 While the door was open, Glover stood within two feet of the person from whom he made the purchase and observed his face. Five to seven minutes elapsed from the

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time the door first opened until it closed the second time. Id. at 30-33.

Glover and Brown then left the building. This was about eight minutes after their arrival. Glover drove to headquarters, where he described the seller to D'Onofrio and Gaffey. Glover at that time did not know the identity of the seller. Id. at 36. He described him as being

a colored man, approximately five feet eleven inches tall, dark complexion, black hair, short Afro style, and having high cheekbones, and of heavy build. He was wearing at the time blue pants and a plaid shirt.

Id. at 36-37. D'Onofrio, suspecting from this description that respondent might be the seller, obtained a photograph of respondent from the Records Division of the Hartford Police Department. He left it at Glover's office. D'Onofrio was not acquainted with respondent personally, but did know him by sight and had seen him "[s]everal times" prior to May 5. Id. at 63-65. Glover, when alone, viewed the photograph for the first time upon his return to headquarters on May 7; he identified the person shown as the one from whom he had purchased the narcotics. Id. at 36-38.

The toxicological report on the contents of the glassine bags revealed the presence of heroin. The report was dated July 16, 1970. Id. at 75-76.

Respondent was arrested on July 27 while visiting at the apartment of a Mrs. Ramsey on the third floor of 201 Westland. This was the apartment at which the narcotics sale had taken place on May 5.4

Respondent was charged, in a two-count information, with possession and sale of heroin, in violation of Conn.Gen.Stat. (Rev. of 1958, as amended in 1969), §§ 19-481a and 19-480a

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(1977).5 [97 S.Ct. 2247] At his trial in January, 1971, the photograph from which Glover had identified respondent was received in evidence without objection on the part of the defense. Tr. 38. Glover also testified that, although he had not seen respondent in the eight months that had elapsed since the sale, "there [was] no doubt whatsoever" in his mind that the person shown on the photograph was respondent. Id. at 41-42. Glover also made a positive in-court identification without objection. Id. at 37-38.

No explanation was offered by the prosecution for the failure to utilize a photographic array or to conduct a lineup.

Respondent, who took the stand in his own defense, testified that, on May 5, the day in question, he had been ill at his Albany Avenue apartment ("a lot of back pains, muscle spasms . . . a bad heart . . . high blood pressure . . . neuralgia in my face, and sinus," id. at 106), and that at no time on that particular day had he been at 201 Westland. Id. at 106, 113-114. His wife testified that she recalled, after her husband had refreshed her memory, that he was home all day on May 5. Id. at 164-165. Doctor Wesley M. Vietzke, an internist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut, testified that respondent had consulted him on April 15, 1970, and that he took a medical history from him, heard his complaints about his back and facial pain, and discovered that he had high blood pressure. Id. at 129-131. The physician found respondent, subjectively, "in great discomfort." Id. at 135. Respondent in fact underwent surgery for a herniated disc at L5 and S1 on August 17. Id. at 157.

The jury found respondent guilty on both counts of the information. He received a sentence of not less than six nor

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more than nine years. His conviction was affirmed per curiam by the Supreme Court of Connecticut. State v. Brathwaite, 164 Conn. 617, 325 A.2d 284 (1973). That court noted the absence of an objection to Glover's in-court identification and concluded that respondent "has not shown that substantial injustice resulted from the admission of this evidence." Id. at 619, 325 A.2d at 285. Under Connecticut law, substantial injustice must be shown before a claim of error not made or passed on by the trial court will be considered on appeal. Ibid.

Fourteen months later, respondent filed a petition for habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. He alleged that the admission of the identification testimony at his state trial deprived him of due process of law to which he was entitled under the Fourteenth Amendment. The District Court, by an unreported written opinion based on the court's review of the state trial...

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