445 U.S. 463 (1980), 78-777, United States v. Crews

Docket Nº:No. 78-777
Citation:445 U.S. 463, 100 S.Ct. 1244, 63 L.Ed.2d 537
Party Name:United States v. Crews
Case Date:March 25, 1980
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 463

445 U.S. 463 (1980)

100 S.Ct. 1244, 63 L.Ed.2d 537

United States



No. 78-777

United States Supreme Court

March 25, 1980

Argued October 31, 1979



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 [100 S.Ct. 1246] 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.

Held: The judgment is reversed. Pp. 470-477; 477; 477-479.

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. 470-474, 477.

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(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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 477. WHITE, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result, in which BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 477. MARSHALL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Page 465

BRENNAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part II-D.

We are called upon to decide whether in the circumstances of this case an in-court identification of the accused by the victim of a crime should be suppressed as the fruit of the defendant's unlawful arrest.


On the morning of January 3, 1974, a woman was accosted and robbed at gunpoint by a young man in the women's restroom on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Her assailant, peering at her through a 4-inch crack between the [100 S.Ct. 1247] wall and the door of the stall she occupied, asked for $10 and demanded that he be let into the stall. When the woman refused, the robber pointed a pistol over the top of the door and repeated his ultimatum. The victim then surrendered the money, but the youth demanded an additional $10. When the woman opened her purse and showed her assailant that she had no more cash, he gained entry to her stall and made sexual advances upon her. She tried to resist and pleaded with him to leave. He eventually did, warning his victim that he would shoot her if she did not wait at least 20 minutes before following him out of the restroom. The woman complied, and upon leaving the restroom 10 minutes later, immediately reported the incident to the police.

On January 6, two other women were assaulted and robbed in a similar episode in the same restroom. A young man threatened the women with a broken bottle, forced them to hand over $20, and then departed, again cautioning his victims not to leave for 20 minutes. The description of the

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robber given to the police by these women matched that given by the first victim: all three described their assailant as a young black male, 15-18 years old, approximately 5'5" to 5'8" tall, slender in build, with a very dark complexion and smooth skin.

Three days later, on January 9, Officer David Rayfield of the United States Park Police observed respondent in the area of the Washington Monument concession stand and restrooms. Aware of the robberies of the previous week and noting respondent's resemblance to the police "lookout" that described the perpetrator, the officer and his partner approached respondent.1 Respondent gave the officers his name and said that he was 16 years old. When asked why he was not in school, respondent replied that he had just "walked away from school."2 The officers informed respondent of his likeness to the suspect's description, but there was no further questioning about those events. Respondent was allowed to leave, and the officers watched as he entered the nearby restrooms.

While respondent was still inside, Officer Rayfield saw and spoke to James Dickens, a tour guide who had previously reported having seen a young man hanging around the area of the Monument on the day of the January 3d robbery. In response to the officer's request to observe respondent as he left the restroom, Dickens tentatively identified him as the individual he had seen on the day of the robbery.

On the basis of this additional information, the officers again approached respondent and detained him. Detective Earl Ore, the investigator assigned to the robberies, was immediately summoned. Upon his arrival some 10 or 15 minutes later, Detective Ore attempted to take a Polaroid photograph

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of respondent, but the inclement weather conditions frustrated his several efforts to produce a picture suitable for display to the robbery victims. Respondent was therefore taken into custody, ostensibly because he was a suspected truant. He was then transported to Park Police headquarters, where the police briefly questioned him, obtained the desired photograph, telephoned his school, and released him. Respondent was never formally arrested or charged with any offense, and his detention at the station lasted no more than an hour.

On the following day, January 10, the police showed the victim of the first robbery an array of eight photographs, including one of respondent. Although she had previously viewed over 100 pictures of possible suspects without identifying any of [100 S.Ct. 1248] them as her assailant, she immediately selected respondent's photograph as that of the man who had robbed her. On January 13, one of the other victims made a similar identification.3 Respondent was again taken into custody, and, at a court-ordered lineup held on January 21, he was positively identified by the two women who had made the photographic identifications.

The grand jury returned an indictment against respondent on February 22, 1974, charging him with two counts of armed robbery, two counts of robbery, one count of attempted armed robbery, and three counts of assault with a dangerous weapon.4 Respondent filed a pretrial motion to suppress all identification testimony, contending that his detention on the truancy charges had been merely a pretext to allow the police to obtain evidence for the robbery investigation. After...

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