United States v. Crews

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Police Car

DOCKET NO.: 78-777
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: District of Columbia Court of Appeals

CITATION: 445 US 463 (1980)
ARGUED: Oct 31, 1979
DECIDED: Mar 25, 1980

Mr. Andrew L. Frey - on behalf of the Petitioner
W. Gary Kohlman - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Crews

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 31, 1979 in United States v. Crews

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 25, 1980 in United States v. Crews

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment of the Court in 78-777, United States against Crews will be announced by Mr. Justice Brennan.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

This case is here on certiorari to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

Respondent was tried and convicted in the District of Columbia Superior Court under an indictment charging assault and robbery.

He sought before trial to suppress all identification testimony because as the government concedes, he had been illegally arrested in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The trial court denied the motion to suppress.

Under the doctrine of Frisbie v. Collins, the illegality of his arrest did not of course preclude his trial and conviction.

That illegality did however present the question whether the victim's in-court identification of respondent as her assailant should be excluded as the fruit of the respondent's unlawful arrest.

The trial court held that the illegality of the arrest had not in the circumstances of this case tainted the victim's in court identification and permitted the victim to testify that respondent was her assailant.

The Court of Appeals reversed holding that the in-court identification evidence was obtained by official exploitation of the primary illegality that is the wrongful arrest within the meaning of Wong Sun v. United States and should therefore have been excluded.

We disagree with the Court of Appeals and reversed.

The trial court expressly found that the victim's court identification rested on an independent recollection of her initial encounter with the assailant that is on events that occurred before respondent's arrest.

And this determination finds ample support in the record.

At the scene of the assault and robbery, the victim viewed her assailant at close range for a period of from 5 to 10 minutes under excellent lighting conditions with no distractions, respondent closely matched the description given by the victim immediately after the robbery.

The victim failed to identify anyone other than respondent indeed twice selected respondent without hesitation in non-suggestive pretrial identification procedures and only a week had passed between the victim's initial observation of respondent and her first identification of him.

In short, the victim's capacity to identify her assailant in court antedated respondent's arrest and neither resulted from nor was biased by the unlawful police conduct committed after she had developed that capacity.

Mr. Justice White joined by the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Rehnquist, and Mr. Justice Powell joined by Mr. Justice Blackmun has each filed a separate opinion joining in the reversal but addressing a question not addressed Mr. Justice Stewart, Mr. Justice Stevens and me namely, whether notwithstanding Frisbie and Collins, there may be circumstances though not present in this case in which an accused physiognomy should be considered evidence in a possible fruit of police misconduct.

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

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Brennan.