Smith v. State of Illinois, No. 158

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWHITE; HARLAN
Citation19 L.Ed.2d 956,390 U.S. 129,88 S.Ct. 748
Decision Date29 January 1968
Docket NumberNo. 158
PartiesFleming SMITH, Petitioner, v. STATE OF ILLINOIS

390 U.S. 129
88 S.Ct. 748
19 L.Ed.2d 956
Fleming SMITH, Petitioner,

v.

STATE OF ILLINOIS.

No. 158.
Argued Dec. 7, 1967.
Decided Jan. 29, 1968.

Gerald W. Getty, Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.

John J. O'Toole, Chicago, Ill., for respondent.

Opinion of the Court by Mr. Justice STEWART, announced by Mr. Justice FORTAS.

In Pointer v. State of Texas, 380 U.S. 400, 403, 85 S.Ct. 1065, 1068, 13 L.Ed.2d 923, this Court held that the Sixth Amendment right of an accused to confront the witnesses against him is a 'fundamental right * * * made obligatory on the States by the Fourteenth Amendment.' The question presented in this case is whether Illinois denied that right to the petitioner, Fleming Smith. He was convicted in a criminal court of Cook County, Illinois, upon a charge of illegal sale of narcotics, and his conviction was affirmed on appeal. 1

Page 130

We granted certiorari to consider his constitutional claim.2

At the trial the principal witness against the petitioner was a man who identified himself on direct examination as 'James Jordan.' This witness testified that he had purchased a bag of heroin from the petitioner in a restaurant with marked money provided by two Chicago police officers. The officers corroborated part of this testimony,3 but only this witness and the petitioner testified to the crucial events inside the restaurant, and the petitioner's version of those events was entirely different.4 The only real question at the trial, therefore, was the relative credibility of the petitioner and this prosecution witness.

On cross-examination this witness was asked whether 'James Jordan' was his real name. He admitted, over the prosecutor's objection, that it was not. He was then asked what his correct name was, and the court sustained the prosecutor's objection to the question.5 Later the

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witness was asked where he lived, and again the court sustained the prosecutor's objection to the question.6

As the Court said in Pointer, 'It cannot seriously be doubted at this late date that the right of cross-examination is included in the right of an accused in a criminal case to confront the witnesses against him.' 380 U.S., at 404, 85 S.Ct., at 1068. Even more recently we have repeated that '(a) denial of cross-examination without waiver * * * would be constitutional error of the first magnitude and no amount of showing of want of prejudice would cure it.' Brookhart v. Janis, 384 U.S. 1, 3, 86 S.Ct. 1245, 1246, 16 L.Ed.2d 314.

In the present case there was not, to be sure, a complete denial of all right of cross-examination. But the petitioner was denied the right to ask the principal prosecution witness either his name or where he lived, although the witness admitted that the name he had first given was false. Yet when the credibility of a witness is in issue, the very starting point in 'exposing falsehood and bringing out the truth'7 through cross-examination must necessarily be to ask the witness who he is and where he lives. The witness' name and address open countless avenues of in-court examination and out-of-court investigation. To forbid this most rudimentary inquiry at the threshold is effectively to emasculate the right of cross-examination itself.

Page 132

In Alford v. United States, 282 U.S. 687, 51 S.Ct. 218, 75 L.Ed. 624, this Court almost 40 years ago unanimously reversed a federal conviction because the trial judge had sustained objections to questions by the defense seeking to elicit the 'place of residence' of a prosecution witness over the insistence of defense counsel that 'the jury was entitled to know 'who the witness is, where he lives and what his business is." 282 U.S., at 688—689, 51 S.Ct., at 218. What the Court said in reversing that conviction is fully applicable here:

'It is the essence of a fair trial that reasonable latitude be given the cross-examiner, even though he is unable to state to the court what facts a reasonable cross-examination might develop. Prejudice ensues from a denial of the opportunity to place the witness in his proper setting and put the weight of his testimony and his credibility to a test, without which the jury cannot fairly appraise them. * * * To say that prejudice can be established only by showing that the cross-examination, if pursued, would necessarily have brought out facts tending to discredit the testimony in chief, is to deny a substantial right and withdraw one of the safeguards essential to a fair trial. * * *

'* * * The question, 'Where do you live?' was not only an appropriate preliminary to the cross-examination of the witness, but on its face, without any such declaration of purpose as was made by counsel here, was an essential step in identifying the witness with his environment, to which cross-examination may always be directed. * * *

'The extent of cross-examination with respect to an appropriate subject of inquiry is within the sound discretion of the trial court. It may exercise reasonable judgment in determining when the subject is exhausted. * * * But no obligation is imposed

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on the court, such as that suggested below, to protect a witness from being discredited on cross-examination, short of an...

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697 practice notes
  • Doe v. United States Civil Serv. Com'n, No. 78 Civ. 131 (CHT).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • January 16, 1980
    ...In re United States, supra, 565 F.2d at 22-23; Stephens Produce Co. v. NLRB, 515 F.2d 1373, 1377 (8th Cir. 1975); cf. Smith v. Illinois, 390 U.S. 129, 88 S.Ct. 748, 19 L.Ed.2d 956 (1968) (Sixth Amendment requires that name and address of principal prosecution witness be revealed so that def......
  • People v. Ashford, Cr. 6324
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 16, 1968
    ...does not involve a denial of the right of the defendant to confront and cross-examine the witness (cf. Smith v. State of Illinois (1968) 390 U.S. 129, 131, 88 S.Ct. 748, 19 L.Ed.2d 956), but only a denial of that aspect of the Sixth Amendment right which is said to entitle him to have the t......
  • Kallstrom v. City of Columbus, No. C-2-96-124.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • September 27, 2001
    ...or her name, address, or place of employment if revealing the information would place the witness in danger. See, e.g., Smith v. Illinois, 390 U.S. 129, 134-35, 88 S.Ct. 748, 19 L.Ed.2d 956 (1968) (White, J. and Marshall, J. concurring) (recognizing the safety of a witness as proper ground ......
  • Alvarado v. Superior Court, No. S059827.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 17, 2000
    ...most rudimentary inquiry at the threshold is effectively to emasculate the right of cross-examination itself" {Smith v. Illinois (1968) 390 U.S. 129, 131, 88 S.Ct. 748, 19 L.Ed.2d 956, italics added, fn. Accordingly, we conclude that the challenged order must be vacated insofar as it author......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
696 cases
  • Doe v. United States Civil Serv. Com'n, No. 78 Civ. 131 (CHT).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • January 16, 1980
    ...In re United States, supra, 565 F.2d at 22-23; Stephens Produce Co. v. NLRB, 515 F.2d 1373, 1377 (8th Cir. 1975); cf. Smith v. Illinois, 390 U.S. 129, 88 S.Ct. 748, 19 L.Ed.2d 956 (1968) (Sixth Amendment requires that name and address of principal prosecution witness be revealed so that def......
  • People v. Ashford, Cr. 6324
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 16, 1968
    ...does not involve a denial of the right of the defendant to confront and cross-examine the witness (cf. Smith v. State of Illinois (1968) 390 U.S. 129, 131, 88 S.Ct. 748, 19 L.Ed.2d 956), but only a denial of that aspect of the Sixth Amendment right which is said to entitle him to have the t......
  • Kallstrom v. City of Columbus, No. C-2-96-124.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • September 27, 2001
    ...or her name, address, or place of employment if revealing the information would place the witness in danger. See, e.g., Smith v. Illinois, 390 U.S. 129, 134-35, 88 S.Ct. 748, 19 L.Ed.2d 956 (1968) (White, J. and Marshall, J. concurring) (recognizing the safety of a witness as proper ground ......
  • Alvarado v. Superior Court, No. S059827.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 17, 2000
    ...rudimentary inquiry at the threshold is effectively to emasculate the right of cross-examination itself" {Smith v. Illinois (1968) 390 U.S. 129, 131, 88 S.Ct. 748, 19 L.Ed.2d 956, italics added, fn. Accordingly, we conclude that the challenged order must be vacated insofar as it author......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Trial
    • United States
    • Environmental crimes deskbook 2nd edition Part Two
    • June 20, 2014
    ...Accuser: Ancient and Medieval Precursors of the Confrontation Clause , 34 Va. J. Int’l L. 481 (1994). 40. See, e.g ., Smith v. Illinois, 390 U.S. 129 (1968) (where the state would not produce the witness in person because it said that revealing his identity would undermine the secretive nat......

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