James v. Illinois

LOCATION: Residence of Cruzan

DOCKET NO.: 88-6075
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Illinois

CITATION: 493 US 307 (1990)
ARGUED: Oct 03, 1989
DECIDED: Jan 10, 1990

Martin S. Carlson - Argued the cause for the petitioner
Terence M. Madsen - Argued the cause for the respondent

Facts of the case

James was a youth arrested for the murder of another adolescent. During his trial a witness testifying on his behalf described James's appearance on the night of the supposed crime. This description contradicted statements which James had made to police officers the day after the crime. To expose this perjured testimony, prosecutors moved to introduce James's statements into the trial even though they were obtained illegally.


Could James's statements be used against him even though they were obtained illegally?

Media for James v. Illinois

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 03, 1989 in James v. Illinois

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 10, 1990 in James v. Illinois

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 88-6075, James versus Illinois will be announced by Justice Brennan.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

This case is here on certiorari to the Supreme Court of Illinois.

The impeachment exception to the exclusionary rule have permits the prosecution in a criminal proceeding to introduce evidence illegally obtained from the defendant to impeach the defendant’s own testimony if he takes the stand.

The Illinois Supreme Court extended this exception, in this case, to permit the prosecution to introduce evidence illegally obtained from the defendant to impeach the testimony not only of the defendant who takes the stand, but also of other witnesses who testify for the defense whether or not the defendant takes the stand.

The Supreme Court reasoned that in order to deter the defendant from engaging in perjury by proxy, the impeachment exception to the exclusionary rule ought to be expanded.

We reverse.

We hold that this extension is inconsistent with a balance of values underlying our previous applications of the exclusionary rule expansion of the exceptions would significantly weaken the exclusionary rules to deter effect and police misconduct by enhancing the expected value to the prosecution of an illegally obtained evidence by deterring defendants from calling witnesses in the first place and thereby keeping exculpatory evidence from the jury.

When police officers confront opportunities to obtain illegal evidence, excluding such evidence from only the prosecution’s case in chief, would lead officer with little to lose and much to gain by overstepping the constitutional limits on evidence gathered.

Accordingly, the judgment of the Illinois Supreme Court is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with our opinion filed this day with the Clerk.

Justice Stevens has filed a concurring opinion; Justice Kennedy filed a dissenting opinion in which the Chief Justice and Justices O’Connor and Scalia have joined.