Wardius v. Oregon 8212 6042

Decision Date11 June 1973
Docket NumberNo. 71,71
PartiesRonald Dale WARDIUS, Petitioner, v. State of OREGON. —6042
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

At petitioner's criminal trial, a witness' alibi evidence was struck as a sanction for petitioner's failure to file a notice of alibi in accordance with Oregon's statutory requirement, and petitioner himself was not allowed to give alibi testimony. Following petitioner's conviction the appellate court, affirming, rejected his constitutional challenge to the state statute, which grants no discovery rights to criminal defendants. Held: Reciprocal discovery is required by fundamental fairness and it is insufficient that although the statute does not require it, the State might grant reciprocal discovery in a given case. In the absence of fair notice that petitioner will have an opportunity to discover the State's rebuttal witnesses, petitioner cannot, consistently with due process requirements, be required to reveal his alibi defense. Pp. 473—479.

Reversed and remanded; see 6 Or.App. 391, 487 P.2d 1380.

J. Marvin Kuhn, Deputy Public Defender, Salem, Or., for petitioner.

W. Michael Gillette, Asst. Atty. Gen., Dept. of Justice, Salem, Or., for respondent.

Mr. Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case involves important questions concerning the right of a defendant forced to comply with a 'notice-of-alibi' rule to reciprocal discovery.

In Williams v. Florida, 399 U.S. 78, 90 S.Ct. 1893, 26 L.Ed.2d 446 (1970), we upheld the constitutionality of Florida's notice-of-alibi rule which required criminal defendants intending to rely on an alibi defense to notify the prosecution of the place at which they claimed to be at the time in question, and of the names and addresses of witnesses they intended to call in support of the alibi.1 In so holding, however, we emphasized that the constitutionality of such rules might depend on 'whether the defendant enjoys reciprocal discovery against the State.' Id., at 82 n. 11, 90 S.Ct., at 1896. 2 In the case presently before us, Oregon prevented a criminal defendant from introducing any evidence to support his alibi defense as a sanction for his failure to comply with a notice-of-alibi rule which, on its face made no provision for reciprocal discovery.3 The case thus squarely presents the question left open in Williams, and we granted certiorari so that this question could be resolved. 406 U.S. 957, 92 S.Ct. 2066, 32 L.Ed.2d 343 (1972).

We hold that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbids enforcement of alibi rules unless reciprocal discovery rights are given to criminal defendants. Since the Oregon statute did not provide for reciprocal discovery, it was error for the court below to enforce it against petitioner, and his conviction must be reversed.4

I

On May 22, 1970, petitioner was indicted under Ore.Rev.Stat. § 474.020 for unlawful sale of narcotics. The sale allegedly occurred the previous day. At trial, after the State had concluded its case, petitioner called one Colleen McFadden who testified that on the night in question, she had been with petitioner at a drive-in movie. The prosecutor thereupon brought to the judge's attention petitioner's failure to file a notice of alibi, and after hearing argument the trial judge granted the State's motion to strike McFadden's testimony because of this failure. Petitioner himself then took the stand and attempted to testify that he was at the drive-in with McFadden at the time when the State alleged the sale occurred. Once again, however, the State objected and the trial judge again refused to permit the evidence.

Petitioner was convicted as charged and sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment. On appeal, the Oregon Court of Appeals rejected petitioner's contentions that the Oregon statute was unconstitutional in the absence of reciprocal discovery rights and that the exclusion sanction abridged his right to testify in his own behalf and his right to compulsory process. 6 Or.App. 391, 487 P.2d 1380 (1971). In an unreported order, the Oregon Supreme Court denied petitioner's petition to review. See App. 21.

II

Notice-of-alibi rules, now in use in a large and growing number of States, 5 are based on the proposition that the ends of justice will best be served by a system of liberal discovery which gives both parties the maximum possible amount of information with which to prepare their cases and thereby reduces the possibility of surprise at trial. See, e.g., Brennan, The Criminal Prosecution: Sporting Event or Quest for Truth?, 1963 Wash.U.L.Q. 279; American Bar Association Project on Standards for Criminal Justice, Discovery and Procedure Before Trial 23—43 (Approved Draft 1970); Goldstein, The State and the Accused: Balance of Advantage in Criminal Procedure, 69 Yale L.J. 1149 (1960). The growth of such discovery devices is a salutary development which, by increasing the evidence available to both parties, enhances the fairness of the adversary system. As we recognized in Williams, nothing in the Due Process Clause precludes States from experimenting with systems of broad discovery designed to achieve these goals. 'The adversary system of trial is hardly an end in itself; it is not yet a poker game in which players enjoy an absolute right always to conceal their cards until played. We find ample room in that system, at least as far as 'due process' is concerned, for (a rule) which is designed to enhance the search for truth in the criminal trial by insuring both the defendant and the State ample opportunity to investigate certain facts crucial to the determination of guilt or innocence.' 399 U.S., at 82 (footnote omitted), 90 S.Ct., at 1896.

Although the Due Process Clause has little to say regarding the amount of discovery which the parties must be afforded, but cf. Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963), it does speak to the balance of forces between the accused and his accuser. Cf. In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 361—364, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 1070—1073, 25 L.Ed.2d 368 (1970).6 The Williams Court was therefore careful to note that 'Florida law provides for liberal discovery by the defendant against the State, and the notice-of-alibi rule is itself carefully hedged with reciprocal duties requiring state disclosure to the defend- ant.' 399 U.S., at 81 (footnote omitted), 90 S.Ct., at 1896. The same cannot be said of Oregon law. As the State conceded at oral argument, see Tr. of Oral Arg. 19, Oregon grants no discovery rights to criminal defendants, and, indeed, does not even provide defendants with bills of particulars.7 More significantly, Oregon, unlike Florida, has no provision which requires the State to reveal the names and addresses of witnesses it plans to use to refute an alibi defense.8

We do not suggest that the Due Process Clause of its own force requires Oregon to adopt such provisions. Cf. United States v. Augenblick, 393 U.S. 348, 89 S.Ct. 528, 21 L.Ed.2d 537 (1969); Cicenia v. Lagay, 357 U.S. 504, 78 S.Ct. 1297, 2 L.Ed.2d 1523 (1958). But we do hold that in the absence of a strong showing of state interests to the contrary, discovery must be a two-way street. The State may not insist that trials be run as a 'search for truth' so far as defense witnesses are concerned, while maintaining 'poker game' secrecy for its own witnesses.9 It is fundamentally unfair to require a defendant to divulge the details of his own case while at the same time subjecting him to the hazard of surprise concerning refutation of the very pieces of evidence which he disclosed to the State.

Indeed, neither the respondent nor the Oregon Court of Appeals contests these principles. Nor does not State suggest any significant governmental interests which might support the lack of reciprocity. Instead, respondent has chosen to rest its case on a procedural point. While conceding that Oregon law fails to provide for reciprocal discovery on its face, the State contends that if petitioner had given notice of his alibi defense, the state courts might have read the Oregon statute as requiring the State to give the petitioner the names and addresses of state witnesses used to refute the alibi defense. Since petitioner failed to give notice, his alibi defense was not permitted and there were, therefore, no state rebuttal witnesses whose testimony tended to disprove the alibi. Since no such testimony was intro- duced, respondent argues that Oregon's willingness to permit reciprocal discovery remains untested. The State says, in effect, that petitioner should not be permitted to litigate the reciprocity issue in the abstract in federal court after bypassing an opportunity to contest the issue concretely before the state judiciary.10

It is, of course, true that the Oregon courts are the final arbiters of the State's own law, and we cannot predict what the state court might have done had it been faced with a defendant who had given the required notice of alibi and then sought reciprocal discovery rights. But it is this very lack of predictability which ultimately defeats the State's argument. At the time petitioner was forced to decide whether or not to reveal his alibi defense to the prosecution, he had to deal with the statute as written with no way of knowing how it might subsequently be interpreted. Nor could he retract the information once provided should it turn out later that the hoped-for reciprocal discovery rights were not granted.

For this reason, had petitioner challenged the lack of reciprocity by giving notice and then demanding discovery, he would have done so at considerable risk. To be sure, the state court might have construed the Oregon statutes so as to save the constitutionality of the notice requirement and granted reciprocal discovery rights. But the state court would also have had the option of reading state law as precluding reciprocal discovery. If the court adopted this latter alternative, it would...

To continue reading

Request your trial
866 cases
  • Facebook, Inc. v. Superior Court of San Diego Cnty.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 26, 2017
    ...in a criminal case." ( Weatherford v. Bursey (1977) 429 U.S. 545, 559, 97 S.Ct. 837, 51 L.Ed.2d 30 ; Wardius v. Oregon (1973) 412 U.S. 470, 474, 93 S.Ct. 2208, 37 L.Ed.2d 82 ["[T]he Due Process Clause has little to say regarding the amount of discovery which the parties must be afforded."].......
  • People v. Mora, S079925
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 2, 2018
    ...process commands "a two-way street" between the prosecution and defense, which extends to jury instructions. ( Wardius v. Oregon (1973) 412 U.S. 470, 475, 93 S.Ct. 2208, 37 L.Ed.2d 82.) Here, because the prosecution requested and the trial court agreed to give CALJIC No. 2.03 regarding cons......
  • State v. Cobb
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • December 7, 1999
    .......'" (Citations omitted; emphasis in original.) Id., quoting Wardius v. Oregon, 412 U.S. 470, 474, 93 S. Ct. 2208, 37 L. Ed. 2d 82 (1973) . ......
  • People v. Mora
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 2, 2018
    ...commands "a two-way street" between the prosecution and defense, which extends to jury instructions. ( Wardius v. Oregon (1973) 412 U.S. 470, 475, 93 S.Ct. 2208, 37 L.Ed.2d 82.) Here, because the prosecution requested and the trial court agreed to give CALJIC No. 2.03 regarding consciousnes......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
11 books & journal articles
  • Pre-trial discovery and motion practice
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Innovative DUI Trial Tools
    • May 1, 2021
    ...Amendment. See United States v. Bagley , 473 U.S. 667 (1985); Brady v. Maryland , 373 U.S. 83 (1963). See also Wardius v. Oregon , 412 U.S. 470 (1973). Ultimately the Court chose to adopt a due process analysis for purposes of the Ritchie case and deferred deciding whether and how the guara......
  • Discovery
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books California Drunk Driving Law - Volume 1-2 Volume 1
    • March 30, 2022
    ...violation of the Due Process Clause “in the absence of a strong showing of state interests to the contrary…” Wardius v. Oregon (1973) 412 U.S. 470, 475 n. 9. “[I]f there DISCOVERY §5:42 California Drunk Driving Law 5-12 is to be any imbalance in discovery rights, it should work in the defen......
  • Equalizing Access to Evidence: Criminal Defendants and the Stored Communications Act.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 131 No. 5, March 2022
    • March 1, 2022
    ...Data in Criminal Defense Investigations, 68 UCLA L. REV. 212(2021). (10.) Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). (11.) Wardius v. Oregon, 412 U.S. 470 (12.) Nat'l Inst, of Just., Electronic Crime Scene Investigation: A Guide Jor First Responders, Second Edition, U.S. DEP'T JUST., at ix (Apr......
  • Pretrial discovery
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Federal Criminal Practice
    • April 30, 2022
    ...the amount of discovery which the parties must be afforded.’” Weatherford v. Bursey , 429 U.S. 545, 559 (1977) (quoting Wardius v. Or , 412 U.S. 470, 474 (1973)). The purpose of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure is to achieve a just determination of the case. The Rules are construed t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT