McCray v. Illinois

LOCATION: Bellmawr, New Jersey Police Department

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)

CITATION: 386 US 300 (1967)
ARGUED: Jan 10, 1967 / Jan 11, 1967
DECIDED: Mar 20, 1967

Facts of the case


Media for McCray v. Illinois

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 11, 1967 in McCray v. Illinois

Earl Warren:

George McCray, Petitioner versus Illinois.

Mr. O'Toole, you may continue your argument.

John J. O'Toole:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

Yesterday we established that the federal rule regarding the reduction of an informant in the area of narcotics at the present time is that there must be a balancing of the rights, that is the rights of the people and the rights of the individual and in relation to its constitutional guarantees.

And that in the recent federal decisions that in this area that disclosure of the name or the identity of the informant has not been required where the crime is merely that of possession and the individual that is the informant did not actively participate in the crime itself.

Going to the rights of the people and the need we have for nondisclosure here, I'm sure --

Earl Warren:

Mr. O'Toole, may I ask you, do you have a case in -- directly in point on the facts such as this on which you rely?

John J. O'Toole:

No Your Honor, there is no case directly on point, the federal jurisdiction that would -- that we could use to resolve this question.

It is only by dicta that we have drawn out this reasoning.

What about the Robinson case or the (Inaudible) case?

John J. O'Toole:

Your Honor, I'm -- I could not speak authoritatively on that, it's exactly -- there are cases in the federal system, in the Courts of Appeals which after the decision in Roviaro have come to this conclusion and have interpreted the decision of this Court to me that there need not to be disclosure when we have a nonparticipant informant in a crime of possession.

There are several cases.

I believe we cited seven on page 13 of our brief here Your Honor.

As to the rights of the people and in this situation, there's a need that their rights to be protected here or there is a necessity for informants.

This Court has ordered in many occasions that significant percentages of arrest are based upon information supplied by informants.

And more important I think is the crime itself here, in any crime which involves vice, gambling or narcotics.

We do not have complaining witnesses as we know in a robbery case or a crime of that nature.

We have willing participants.

There is no complaining witness.

I think it was Mr. Chief Justice Clark who noted in a dissent recently that informants are almost necessary when it comes to this type of crime because we must fetter out the criminal through subterraneous methods and before we have no complaint made by any citizen, the victim here is a willing victim and I think that this crime should be viewed in that way.

If we are required to disclose the name and the identity of an informant in this situation, the effects would be to negate the usefulness of informants in general.

The individual informant in any given situation would be faced with retaliation and this is been noted by courts of all jurisdictions as death sometimes follows and there would be no doubt that we would lose the effectiveness of this one informant.

We would lose the effectiveness of all informants for no one would be willing to come forth with information and place their life on the line to speak and there's no doubt that this would happen.

Earl Warren:

Well, Mr. O'Toole, isn't there another answer to that law without disclosing the informant?

Now, yesterday I understood you to say that with the -- if we set aside this statement supposedly made by the informant to the officer, there would not have been probable cause shown in this case.

Now, is it -- and in those circumstances, is it too much to ask for the Government that they prove their probable cause independently of this statement that was made to them by the informant if they're unwilling to produce the informant?

John J. O'Toole:

Your Honor, I would say this, that the Government and the people have a right too and has taken interest in the situation calls for a balancing.

If -- may I say this, that here we are presenting two diametrically opposed views, one, where the Government says, absolutely no disclosure and the petitioner is saying, full disclosure.

Perhaps there's something that lies between that.

However, I don't feel that we should talk about that today because there is a case pending here for certiorari on the middle ground and in camera hearing but there are other methods also.