Wong Sun v. United States

Wong Sun v. United States Case Brief

United States Supreme Court
371 U.S. 471 (1963)

FACTS:
  • Hom Way was under surveillence by federal narcotics agents in San Francisco, and was then arrested and heroin was found in his possession
  • Way said that he obtained the heroin from one "Blackie Toy" who owned a laundry
  • Agents then went to a laundry owned by James Wah Toy and knocked at the door
    • When Toy refused to allow the agents in, the agent showed Toy his badge and Toy ran down the hall into his bedroom
    • Agents followed into the bedroom, took Toy's hand out of a drawer, and arrested him
    • Toy said that he hadn't been selling any narcotics but Johnny Yee was
  • Agents went to Yee's house and found him in his bedroom
    • Agents found and seized several tubes of heroin from a bureau drawer, which he said he had bought from one "Sea Dog" (Wong Sun) 4 days earlier
    • Agent Wong took Toy to a neighborhood and Toy pointed out Wong Sun's apartment
  • Agent Wong & 6 other officers entered the apartment, went to the back bedroom, and arrested Wong Sun
    • No narcotics were found after a thorough search of the apartment
PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
  • Toy and Yee were arraigned and released; Wong Sun was then arraigned and released
  • A few days later, all 3 were interrogated by Agent Wong after being told certain rights
  • Agent Wong prepared a statement from his notes, and read it to Toy
    • Toy made corrections in it, but refused to sign it
    • Wong Sun also refused to sign his statements and had considerable difficult with English
REASONING:
  • No PC: Ct. App. found that there was no PC for Toy's arrest, and the record clearly shows that
  • Statement = "fruit": Verbal evidence which derives so immediately from an unlawful entry and an unauthorized arrest is no less the "fruit" of official illegality than the more common tangible fruits of the unwarranted intrusion
    • Policies underlying exclusionary rule don't warrant a distinction between physical and verbal evidence
  • Statement tainted: It is unreasonable to infer that Toy's response was sufficiently an act of free will to purge the primary taint of the unlawful invasion
    • Immaterial that the statements were exculpatory in nature because they turned incriminating
    • No independent source and connection with unlawful activity not so attenuated as to dissipate the taint
  • Attenuation Doctrine: Whether, granting establishment of the primary illegality, the evidence to which instant objection is made has been come at by exploitation of that illegality or instead by means sufficiently distinguishable to be purged of the primary taint
    • Narcotics here come at by exploitation of the illegality = suppress
  • Wong Sun's statement: Because Wong Sun had been released on his own recognizance and went to Agent Wong voluntarily, the connection between the arrest and the statement had become so attenuated as to dissipate the taint
  • Narcotics against Wong Sun: Seizure of Yee's heroin did not invade a right of privacy of person or premises which would entitle Wong Sun to object to its use at his trial
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