United States v. Ceccolini

PETITIONER:United States
LOCATION:Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers

DOCKET NO.: 76-1151
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 435 US 268 (1978)
ARGUED: Dec 05, 1977
DECIDED: Mar 21, 1978

Leon J. Greenspan – for respondent
Richard A. Allen – for petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Ceccolini

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – December 05, 1977 in United States v. Ceccolini

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – March 21, 1978 in United States v. Ceccolini

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in United States against Ceccolini will be announced by Mr. Justice Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

This is a criminal conviction which was reversed by the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York and we granted certiorari to review that judgment.

The facts are these.

While conducting an admittedly illegal search, a police officer in North Tarrytown, New York, just above the Tappan Zee Bridge discovered that one of the criminal defendant in the cases, employees in a place called appropriate enough the Sleepy Hollow Flower Shop had knowledge concerning betting operations in which the defendant was suspected of being a participant.

Later the defendant testified before a grand jury that he was not involved in any gambling operations.

When the employee testified to the contrary, the defendant was indicted for perjury.

After a bench trial at which the employee again testified, the defendant was found guilty by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

That court then granted the defendant’s motion to suppress the testimony of the employee because it was the product of an illegal search and he set — the the district judge set aside the verdict.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s ruling concluding there was enough connection between the officer’s search of the flower shop and the employees’ testimony at trial to justify the exclusion.

In an opinion filed today with the clerk of the Court we reverse the Court of Appeals.

In determining whether suppression of live witness testimony such as this is proper, a court must consider among other things, the degree of free will exercised by the witness and the fact that exclusion of the witness’ testimony would perpetually disable the witness from testifying.

In the light of these considerations, the exclusionary rule should be invoked with much greater reluctance where a claim is based on a casual relationship between a constitutional violation and the discovery of a live witness than when a similar claim is advanced to support suppression of an inanimate object.

Evaluated in this light, the evidence in this case indicates that the link between the illegal search and the employees’ testimony at trial was sufficiently attenuated to dissipate the taint.

The Chief Justice has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

Mr. Justice Marshall whom Mr. Justice Brennan joins has filed a dissenting opinion.

Mr. Justice Blackmun took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Rehnquist.