State v. Battle, 54879

Citation199 N.W.2d 70
Decision Date29 June 1972
Docket NumberNo. 54879,54879
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. George BATTLE, Appellant.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa

Dan Stamatelos, West Des Moines, for appellant.

Richard C. Turner, Atty. Gen., C. Joseph Coleman, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Ray Fenton, County Atty., for appellee.

MOORE, Chief Justice.

Defendant, George Battle, appeals from conviction and sentence for the crime of being a bootlegger, as defined in Code section 123.59. We affirm.

The evidence adduced at trial disclosed that on September 18, 1970, Robert Kessler, a Creston police officer, was assigned to the Des Moines Police Department as an undercover agent. Late that night he was sent out to attempt to buy liquor from a bottlegger. After picking up three women, one of whom was a police informer, Kessler drove to 1005 Enos Street where he met for the first time Roger and Tony Page. In response to Kessler's offer to buy beer for all, Roger directed Kessler to drive to 1230 10th Street. They were met at the house door by defendant who readily admitted all except Kessler. He gained admission after Roger Page said, 'He's okay, he's with me.' All but Kessler joined about 20 other persons who were drinking in the dining room. Kessler followed Battle into the kitchen where he paid for a round of drinks.

Kessler remained in the kitchen where later he made a five-dollar carry-out purchase of whiskey in a corked Coke bottle. This purchase was made from Battle without witnesses and is the basis of the charge here. Subsequently Kessler delivered to Des Moines police officers the Coke bottle and contents.

At trial defense counsel on cross-examination attempted to learn from Kessler the identity of the female informer. The trial court ruled the State could withhold her identity on the grounds disclosure would subject said informer to jeopardy of her life; defendant had the names of the two men and failed to secure them as witnesses; and 'defendant has shown no substantial reason to believe that said informer would have information which would be of advantage to the defenant. * * *.' This adverse ruling gives rise to defendant's first assigned error.

I. It is a general rule, subject to certain limitations, that the prosecution is privileged to withhold from disclosure the identity of persons who furnish to police officers information relating to law violations. The privilege rests on public policy, and seeks to further and protect the public interest in effective law enforcement. Disclosure to defendant of an informer's identity is required where it would be relevant and helpful to the defense, i.e. when the informer was a participant in, or a witness to, the crime charged. The extensive annotations found in 76 A.L.R.2d 262 and 1 L.Ed.2d 1998 cite the prime authorities establishing the above legal principles which now apparently are recognized by all courts. We do so in State v. Denato, Iowa, 173 N.W.2d 576, 577, 578.

In the polestar case of Roviaro v. United States, 353 U.S. 53, 62, 77 S.Ct. 623, 628, 1 L.Ed.2d 639, 646, the court said:

'We believe that no fixed rule with respect to disclosure is justifiable. The problem is one that calls for balancing the public interest in protecting the flow of information against the individual's right to prepare his defense. Whether a proper balance renders nondisclosure erroneous must depend on the particular circumstances of each case, taking into consideration the crime charged, the possible defenses, the possible significance of the informer's testimony, and other relevant factors.'

The burden of showing need for disclosure is upon defendant. Mere speculation an informer may be helpful is not enough to carry the burden and overcome the public interest in the protection of the informer. United States v. Kelly, 9 Cir., 449 F.2d 329, 330; United States v. Estrada, 9 Cir., 441 F.2d 873, 879; United States v. Ruacho-Acuna, 5 Cir., 440 F.2d 1199, 1200; United States v. McCarthy, S.D.New York, 292 F.Supp. 937, 941; State v. Martinez, 15 Ariz.App. 430, 489 P.2d 277, 279, 280; Hunt v. Commonwealth, Ky., 408 S.W.2d 182, 184 (facts very similar to case at bar). See also 76 A.L.R.2d 262, section 13b, page 298.

Defendant here failed to meet his burden. Mere request on Kessler's cross-examination for the name of the female informer indicates speculation on the relevancy of her testimony. Defendant made no attempt to show need of disclosure. Moreover the record affirmatively shows she was not a participant in or witness to the alleged offense. Defendant's first assigned error is without merit.

II. At trial much testimony was received concerning one 'Chin' and 'Chin's Place.' Officer Bierma testified the residence at 1230 10th Street was known as 'Chin's Place' and 'George's Place.' Des Moines police officers working with Kessler observed him enter the house at 1230 10th Street and soon after his departure therefrom took possession of the Coke bottle and sealed it. For identification they labeled it with defendant's name and 'Chin's Place.' It (exhibit A) was received in evidence without objection to its label. Detective Hansen...

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14 cases
  • State v. Horn
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • August 29, 1979 more than mere speculation an informer's identity may be helpful. State v. Sheffey, 243 N.W.2d 555, 559 (Iowa 1976); State v. Battle, 199 N.W.2d 70, 72 (Iowa 1972). The courts, however, "have generally held the identity of an informer must be disclosed when the informant participated i......
  • State v. Fowler
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • December 15, 1976
    ...are not admissible unless foundationally shown to be relevant. See State v. Mathias, 216 N.W.2d 319, 322 (Iowa 1974); State v. Battle, 199 N.W.2d 70, 72 (Iowa 1972); 2 Jones on Evidence, § 8:7, at 175 (Gard 6th ed. 1972); McCormick on Evidence, § 288 at 686 (2d ed. 1972); 13 Duquense L.Rev.......
  • State v. Lamar, 54582
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • October 17, 1973
    ...cert. denied, 389 U.S. 1041, 88 S.Ct. 784, 19 L.Ed.2d 833 (1968); State v. Crawford, 202 N.W.2d 99, 102 (Iowa 1972); State v. Battle, 199 N.W.2d 70, 71--72 (Iowa 1972); State v. Denato, 173 N.W.2d 576, 577--579 (Iowa 1970); 8 Wigmore on Evidence, § 2374 (McNaughton Rev. 1961); McCormick on ......
  • State v. Webb
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • August 26, 1981
    ...informant was present at the scene of, or participated in, the offense. State v. Schlick, 257 N.W.2d 59, 63 (Iowa 1977); State v. Battle, 199 N.W.2d 70, 71 (Iowa 1972). In such cases disclosure will almost always be material to the defendant's defense, especially when a defense such as entr......
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