Winston v. Lee

PETITIONER: Andrew J. Winston, Sheriff, et al.
RESPONDENT: Rudolph Lee, Jr.
LOCATION: Lombardy Market

DOCKET NO.: 83-1334
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 470 US 753 (1985)
ARGUED: Oct 31, 1984
DECIDED: Mar 20, 1985
GRANTED: Apr 16, 1984

ADVOCATES:
Joseph Ryland Winston - on behalf of the respondent
Stacy F. Garrett, III - on behalf of the petitioners

Facts of the case

Around 1 a.m. on July 18, 1982, Ralph Watkinson was locking up his shop when he saw a figure with a gun approaching him. Watkinson drew his own weapon, and the two fired at each other. Watkinson was hit in the legs, and the other shooter was wounded on his left side and managed to run away. About 20 minutes later, the police found Rudolph Lee, Jr., bleeding from his left side, eight blocks away from Watkinson’s shop. The police took Lee to the same hospital Watkinson was in, and Watkinson identified Lee as his shooter. Lee was charged with attempted robbery, malicious wounding, and two counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony.

The Commonwealth of Virginia filed a motion in state court to compel Lee to submit to surgery to recover the bullet still lodged in his side. The court granted the motion based on testimony that the surgery would be relatively noninvasive and accomplished without use of general anesthetic. The Virginia Supreme Court denied the appeal. Lee sued in district court on the ground that the surgery constituted an illegal search under the Fourth Amendment. The court issued a preliminary injunction. After presenting evidence that the surgery would be much more serious than the court originally thought, Lee asked for a rehearing in the state court, which was denied. The Virginia Supreme Court affirmed. Lee brought the case back to the district court, which ruled against the surgery. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed.

Question

Does the Fourth Amendment prevent a state from a forcing a suspect to undergo surgery in order to retrieve evidence?

Media for Winston v. Lee

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 31, 1984 in Winston v. Lee

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments first this morning in Winston against Lee.

Mr. Garrett, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Stacy F. Garrett, III:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, in 1982, Rudolph Lee attempted to rob a supermarket, and for his efforts received a bullet in his shoulder.

The only witness to that shooting was the victim, who returned fire and put the bullet in Mr. Lee's shoulder.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is seeking to recover that bullet from Mr. Lee's shoulder as corroborative evidence in his prosecution for attempted robbery and for the shooting of the store owner who shot Mr. Lee.

In my petition for certiorari, I asked the Court to establish for the first time a standard by which all courts, particularly our Court, can have to determine when and when not surgery can be mandated upon a defendant in a criminal case to recover from his body evidence that would be used in the prosecution of that person for a crime which it is alleged that he committed.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Do you feel that you needed that evidence in this case?

Stacy F. Garrett, III:

Yes, sir, I do.

Historically in Virginia, in Richmond in particular, one on one situations where the only eye witness is the victim, juries have been very, very reluctant to convict if it only gets one man's word against the other.

In this case it is more complicated because Lee claims that shortly after or at the same time the alleged robbery took place, he himself was the victim of a robbery some eight to ten blocks away, and claims that is how he received the bullet wound when the people robbed him.

Harry A. Blackmun:

You say this is particularly difficult in Richmond?

Stacy F. Garrett, III:

Pardon me?

Harry A. Blackmun:

You say this is particularly difficult in Richmond.

Stacy F. Garrett, III:

Yes, sir.

I recently had a case where there were three witnesses in a situation like that, and the jury came back and found the defendant not guilty, claiming that particular reason.

John Paul Stevens:

While you are on that point, do you understand that if you do go to trial without the bullet, you would be able to put into evidence the refusal of the defendant to submit to this operation?

Stacy F. Garrett, III:

Yes, sir.

But it is still--

John Paul Stevens:

That would be a rather persuasive bit of evidence in itself, wouldn't it?

Stacy F. Garrett, III:

--Yes, sir, it would, but it also is clouded by the fact that he says, sure, I have a bullet in me, but I didn't get it from attempting to rob the supermarket.

I got it when somebody tried to rob me and shot me.

John Paul Stevens:

Then you ask him, why didn't you have this operation?

What is he going to say?

Stacy F. Garrett, III:

I hold my body inviolate.

I don't want anybody to go into it for any reason, I would assume would be his argument.

This Court has never had the opportunity to--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Garrett, on the same point, do you think that as the intrusion in the body becomes greater to recover the bullet, that the corresponding need of the state for the evidence should be greater in order to justify taking it?

Stacy F. Garrett, III:

--If I understand you, ma'am, the deeper the bullet, or the more complicated it is to get it?

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Do you think the state's need for the evidence should be greater to justify taking it out as it gets more difficult to remove?

Stacy F. Garrett, III:

Somewhat.