Bynum v. United States

Citation262 F.2d 465,104 US App. DC 368
Decision Date15 December 1958
Docket NumberNo. 14403.,14403.
PartiesClayborne BYNUM, Appellant v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)

Mr. Henry Lincoln Johnson, Jr., Washington, D. C., for appellant.

Mr. Nathan J. Paulson, Asst. U. S. Atty., with whom Messrs. Oliver Gasch, U. S. Atty., Carl W. Belcher and Thomas A. Flannery, Asst. U. S. Attys., were on the brief, for appellee.

Before FAHY and WASHINGTON, Circuit Judges, and HASTIE, Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.*

Petition for Rehearing In Banc Denied January 20, 1959.

HASTIE, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from a conviction of robbery. D.C.Code § 22-2901 (1951). A principal issue is whether the court below erred in admitting into evidence certain fingerprints which had been obtained from the accused while he was detained pursuant to an allegedly illegal arrest. The circumstances here are such as to require us to examine the rationale and to judge the reach of authoritative decisions which, in other circumstances, have held evidence obtained through illegal arrest and detention to be inadmissible.

Appellant was arrested on an occasion when he had come voluntarily to a police station to make inquiry about his brother who was being detained there. He was arrested without warrant and, as we shall demonstrate later, the record does not disclose probable cause for believing he had committed a felony. It is not disputed that almost immediately after arrest appellant was taken to police headquarters for booking proceedings which included the taking of his fingerprints. He was later indicted, and at his subsequent trial for robbery these fingerprints were introduced in evidence and became an important part of the proof that certain other fingerprints, said to have been found at the scene of the crime, were appellant's fingerprints. These simple facts define the issue in controversy.

In admitting the fingerprints the trial judge appears to have thought it sufficient that the evidence was plainly relevant and that no reason appeared to doubt its trustworthiness. Certainly appellant does not deny that he was fingerprinted during his detention. And a police officer called as a witness duly identified the prints offered in evidence as those taken from appellant's fingers. While there could have been some mistake or misrepresentation in this connection this is a risk incidental to all identification of objects offered in evidence. There can be no doubt that the identification of these fingerprints was quite adequate and their relevancy as an essential link in a chain of evidence connecting the accused with the crime charged was obvious.

But there remains the question whether the fact that an illegal arrest enabled the police to take these fingerprints while the suspect was illegally detained is in itself and without more a sufficient ground for excluding them from evidence. The court below thought it was not. We think it was.

Here it becomes important to determine the rationale of those decisions of the Supreme Court which, in other circumstances, have excluded evidence as the product of unlawful arrest and detention. It is well settled that an article taken from the person of an individual on the occasion of an illegal arrest is not admissible in evidence against him although it is relevant and entirely trustworthy as an item of proof. United States v. Di Re, 1948, 332 U.S. 581, 68 S.Ct. 222, 92 L.Ed. 210; Bolt v. United States, 55 App.D.C. 120, 2 F.2d 922. Again, if the police have obtained a statement from an accused person during his illegal detention, no showing that the statement has been obtained without coercion and accurately recorded can make it admissible, although it may seem to be a trustworthy and patently relevant voluntary statement. Upshaw v. United States, 1948, 335 U.S. 410, 69 S.Ct. 170, 93 L.Ed. 100; Mallory v. United States, 1957, 354 U.S. 449, 77 S.Ct. 1356, 1 L.Ed.2d 1479. In these situations it is deemed a matter of overriding concern that effective sanctions be imposed against illegal arrest and detention and the risks of overreaching inherent in such action. Even though highly probative and seemingly trustworthy evidence is excluded in the process, this loss is thought to be more than counterbalanced by the salutary effect of a forthright and comprehensive rule that illegal detention shall yield the prosecution no evidentiary advantage in building a case against the accused. All of this is bottomed on the Constitution itself. The Fourth Amendment makes protection of the individual against illegal seizure or arrest a constitutional imperative. In the cited cases judicial authority over the manner on which justice shall be administered is exercised in a way calculated to implement the constitutional guarantee.

True, fingerprints can be distinguished from statements given during detention. They can also be distinguished from articles taken from a prisoner's possession. Both similarities and differences of each type of evidence to and from the others are apparent. But all three have the decisive common characteristic of being something of evidentiary value which the public authorities have caused an arrested person to yield to them during illegal detention. If one such product of illegal detention is proscribed, by the same token all should be proscribed. Cf. United States v. Klapholz, 2 Cir., 1956, 230 F.2d 494, certiorari denied 351 U.S. 924, 76 S. Ct. 781, 100 L.Ed. 1454. So we find in the Di Re case, the Upshaw case, the Mallory case and the case at hand a compelling common reason for reaching the same result. Therefore, we conclude that the court below erred in admitting the fingerprints in evidence.

We now turn to the demonstration of the fact, heretofore assumed, that the record discloses no reasonable ground for belief on the part of the arresting officer that appellant had committed a felony. The arresting officer was a policeman on duty at a police station. From a teletype message he had learned that a certain automobile was sought in connection with a robbery. Later, he learned that one Kenneth Bynum had been arrested driving the car and brought to that police station. Thereafter, the appellant, identifying himself as Clayborne Bynum, brother of Kenneth, telephoned the station and was told to come there if he wanted information about his brother's arrest. He came to the station, admitted owning the car in question and stated that he had loaned it to his brother. There is no indication that the arresting officer had information concerning the circumstances of any crime except that a particular car was wanted and had been seized in connection with a...

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