United States v. Wade

United States v. Wade Case Brief

United States Supreme Court
388 U.S. 218 (1967)

ISSUE: Does a post-indictment lineup conducted for identification purposes out of the presence of D's counsel violate D's 6th Amdt. right to assistance of counsel?
  • A federally-insured bank was robbed by a man with 2 strips of tape on either side of his face
  • The only employees in the bank at the time were teller and the VP
  • Indictment returned against D, and counsel was appointed to represent him
  • An FBI agent then arranged a lineup without giving notice to D's lawyer, and Wade and 5 or 6 other prisoners were lined up in a courtroom
    • Each person wore 2 strips of tape and were required to say "put the money in the bag"
    • Both employees identified D
  • D moved to suppress the in-courtroom identifications of D as violative of his 5th & 6th Amdt. rights -- denied
  • Ct. App. reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial at which the in-courtroom ID evidence would be excluded
  • No 5th Amdt. problem: Neither the lineup nor anything that D was required to do during the lineup violated D's privilege against self-incrimination
    • Compelling the accused to exhibit his person for observation by a prosecution witness prior to trial does not compel the accused the give any evidence of testimonial significance
    • Wearing the tap and having to say a set phrase were not compelled self-incrimination
  • No right to counsel at prep. steps: Denial of the right to have counsel present during the analysis of fingerprints, blood samples, clothing, hair, etc. does not violate D's 6th Amdt. rights because there is little risk the counsel's absence at these stages might derogate from his right to a fair trial
  • Post-indictment lineup = critical stage: No doubt that for D the post-indictment lineup was a critical stage of the prosecution at which he was entitled to the presence of counsel
    • Significant concerns about the influence of improper suggestion upon identifying witnesses resulting in improper convictions
    • Accused's inability to effectively reconstruct at trial any unfairness that occurred during the lineup deprives him of his only meaningful opportunity to attack the credibility of the witness's courtroom identification
    • Not necessarily about the dangers of police misconduct, but rather about the dangers of eyewitness identifications in general
  • Test for admissibility: Whether, granting the establishment of the primary illegality, the evidence sought to be admitted has come about by exploitation of that illegality or instead by means sufficiently distinguishable to be purged of the primary taint

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