Davis v. Mississippi, No. 645

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRENNAN
Citation22 L.Ed.2d 676,89 S.Ct. 1394,394 U.S. 721
Docket NumberNo. 645
Decision Date22 April 1969
PartiesJohn DAVIS, Petitioner, v. State of MISSISSIPPI

394 U.S. 721
89 S.Ct. 1394
22 L.Ed.2d 676
John DAVIS, Petitioner,

v.

State of MISSISSIPPI.

No. 645.
Argued Feb. 26 and 27, 1969.
Decided April 22, 1969.

Melvyn Zarr, New York City, for petitioner.

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G. Garland Lyell, Jr., Jackson, Miss., for respondent.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner was convicted of rape and sentenced to life imprisonment by a jury in the Circ it Court of Lauderdale County, Mississippi. The only issue before us is whether fingerprints obtained from petitioner should have been excluded from evidence as the product of a detention which was illegal under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The rape occurred on the evening of December 2, 1965, at the victim's home in Meridian, Mississippi. The victim could give no better description of her assailant than that he was a Negro youth. Finger and palm prints found on the sill and borders of the window through which the assailant apparently entered the victim's home constituted the only other lead available at the outset of the police investigation. Beginning on December 3, and for a period of about 10 days, the Meridian police, without warrants, took at least 24 Negro youths to police headquarters where they were questioned briefly, fingerprinted, and then released without charge. The police also interrogated 40 or 50 other Negro youths either at police headquarters, at school, or on the street. Petitioner, a 14-year-old youth who had occasionally worked for the victim as a yardboy, was brought in on December 3 and released after being fingerprinted and routinely questioned. Between December 3 and December 7, he was interrogated by the police on several occasions—sometimes in his home or in a car, other times at police headquarters. This questioning apparently related primarily to investigation of other potential suspects. Several times during this same period petitioner was exhib-

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ited to the victim in her hospital room. A police officer testified that these confrontations were for the purpose of sharpening the victim's description of her assailant by providing 'a gauge to go by on size and color.' The victim did not identify petitioner as her assailant at any of these confrontations.

On December 12, the police drove petitioner 90 miles to the city of Jackson and confined him overnight in the Jackson jail. The State conceded on oral argument in this Court that there was neither a warrant nor probable cause for this arrest. The next day, petitioner, who had not yet been afforded counsel, took a lie detector test and signed a statement.1 He was then returned to and confined in the Meridian jail. On December 14, while so confined, petitioner was fingerprinted a second time. That same day, these December 14 prints, together with the fingerprints of 23 other Negro youths apparently still under suspicion, were sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, D.C., for comparison with the latent prints taken from the window of the victim's house. The FBI reported that petitioner's prints matched those taken from the window. Petitioner was subsequently indicted and tried for the rape, and the fingerprint evidence was admitted in evidence at trial over petitioner's timely objections that the fingerprints should be excluded as the product of an unlawful detention. The Mississippi Supreme Court sustained the admission of the fingerprint evidence and affirmed the conviction. 204 So.2d 270 (1967). We granted certiorari. 393 U.S. 821, 89 S.Ct. 149, 21 L.Ed.2d 93 (1968). We reverse.

At the outset, we find no merit in the suggestion in the Mississippi Supreme Court's opinion that fingerprint evidence, because of its trustworthiness, is not subject to the proscriptions of the Fourth and Fourteenth

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Amendments.2 Our decisions recognize no exception to the rule that illegally seized evidence is inadmissible at trial, however relevant and trustworthy the seized evidence may be as an item of proof. The exclusionary rule was fashioned as a sanction to redress and deter overreaching governmental conduct prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. To make an exception for illegally seized evidence which is trustworthy would fatally undermine these purposes. Thus, in Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 655, 81 S.Ct. 1684, 6 L.Ed.2d 1081 (1961), we held that 'all evidence obtained by searches and seizures in violation of the Constitution is by that same authority, inadmissible in a state court.' (Italics supplied.) Fingerprint evidence is no exception to this comprehensive rule. We agree with and adopt the conclusion of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Bynum v. United States, 104 U.S.App.D.C. 368, 370, 262 F.2d 465, 467 (1958):

'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.'

We turn then to the question whether the detention of petitioner during which the fingerprints used at trial were taken constituted an unreasonable seizure of his

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person in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The opinion of the Mississippi Supreme Court proceeded on the mistaken premise that petitioner's prints introduced at trial were taken during his brief detention on December 3. In fact, as both parties before us agree, the fingerprint evidence used at trial was obtained on December 14, while petitioner was still in detention following his December 12 arrest. The legality of his arrest was not determined by the Mississippi Supreme Court. However, on oral argument here, the State conceded that the arrest on December 12 and the ensuing detention through December 14 were based on neither a warrant nor probable cause and were therefore constitutionally invalid. The State argues, nevertheless, that this invalidity should not prevent us from affirming petitioner's conviction. The December 3 prints were validly obtained, it is argued, and 'it should make no difference in the practical or legal sense which (fingerprint) card was sent to the F.B.I. for comparison.'3 It may be that it does make a difference in light of the objectives of the exclusionary rule, see Bynum v. United States, supra, at 371—372, 262 F.2d, at 468—469,4 but we need not decide the question since we have concluded that the prints of December 3, were not validly obtained.

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The State makes no claim that petitioner voluntarily accompanied the police officers to headquarters on December 3 and willingly submitted to fingerprinting. The State's brief also candidly...

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1112 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Miller, No. 78-1093
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • November 15, 1978
    ...this was, if not an arrest, closer along the detention spectrum to an arrest than to an investigatory stop. See Davis v. Mississippi, 394 U.S. 721, 89 S.Ct. 1394, 22 L.Ed.2d 676 (1969); United States v. McCaleb, 552 F.2d 717, 720 (6th Cir. 1977); United States v. McDevitt, 508 F.2d 8, 11 (1......
  • Evans v. Chalmers, Nos. 11–1436
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • December 17, 2012
    ...even if not “probable cause in the traditional sense,” for the collection of DNA evidence pursuant to an NTO. See Davis v. Mississippi, 394 U.S. 721, 727, 89 S.Ct. 1394, 22 L.Ed.2d 676 (1969); see also Hayes v. Florida, 470 U.S. 811, 816–17, 105 S.Ct. 1643, 84 L.Ed.2d 705 (1985). On its fac......
  • Williams v. Berry, Civil Action No. 3:13CV38TSL–JMR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • July 19, 2013
    ...trial of fingerprints obtained from the petitioner was error, since the fingerprints were obtained as the result of an illegal detention. 394 U.S. 721, 89 S.Ct. 1394, 22 L.Ed.2d 676 (1969). Although the Court held that the fingerprints were inadmissible fruits of the illegal detention, the ......
  • Sullivan v. Murphy, No. 71-1632.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • April 16, 1973
    ...evidence linking a particular individual with a known crime was vehemently condemned by the Supreme Court in Davis v. Mississippi, 394 U.S. 721, 89 S.Ct. 1394, 22 L.Ed.2d 676 (1969). Similarly, the Constitution does not permit arrests at the scene of a demonstration, without cause at the ti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1112 cases
  • U.S. v. Miller, No. 78-1093
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • November 15, 1978
    ...this was, if not an arrest, closer along the detention spectrum to an arrest than to an investigatory stop. See Davis v. Mississippi, 394 U.S. 721, 89 S.Ct. 1394, 22 L.Ed.2d 676 (1969); United States v. McCaleb, 552 F.2d 717, 720 (6th Cir. 1977); United States v. McDevitt, 508 F.2d 8, 11 (1......
  • Evans v. Chalmers, Nos. 11–1436
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • December 17, 2012
    ...even if not “probable cause in the traditional sense,” for the collection of DNA evidence pursuant to an NTO. See Davis v. Mississippi, 394 U.S. 721, 727, 89 S.Ct. 1394, 22 L.Ed.2d 676 (1969); see also Hayes v. Florida, 470 U.S. 811, 816–17, 105 S.Ct. 1643, 84 L.Ed.2d 705 (1985). On its fac......
  • Williams v. Berry, Civil Action No. 3:13CV38TSL–JMR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • July 19, 2013
    ...trial of fingerprints obtained from the petitioner was error, since the fingerprints were obtained as the result of an illegal detention. 394 U.S. 721, 89 S.Ct. 1394, 22 L.Ed.2d 676 (1969). Although the Court held that the fingerprints were inadmissible fruits of the illegal detention, the ......
  • Sullivan v. Murphy, No. 71-1632.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • April 16, 1973
    ...evidence linking a particular individual with a known crime was vehemently condemned by the Supreme Court in Davis v. Mississippi, 394 U.S. 721, 89 S.Ct. 1394, 22 L.Ed.2d 676 (1969). Similarly, the Constitution does not permit arrests at the scene of a demonstration, without cause at the ti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • The Federalist Society's Influence on the Federal Judiciary
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 62-2, June 2009
    • June 1, 2009
    ...States, 267 U.S. 132 (1925)Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969)Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443 (1971)Davis v. Mississippi, 394 U.S. 721 (1969)Dickerson v. U.S., 530 U.S. 428 (2000)Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense Boardv. College Savings Bank, 527 U.S. 627 (1999)K......
  • The Supreme Court of the United States, 1968-1969
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 23-1, March 1970
    • March 1, 1970
    ...by Justice Stewart (vote: 5-3, Douglas, Harlan, and Fortas dissenting, Mar-shall abstaining). 111 In Davis v. Mississippi (394 U.S. ’721; 89 S. Ct. 1394) the Court held that Fourth Amendment applies to involuntary detention occurring at the investigatorystage as well as at the accusatory st......

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