NAPUE V. ILLINOIS, 360 U. S. 264 (1959)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Napue v. Illinois, 360 U.S. 264 (1959)

Napue v. Illinois

No. 583

Argued April 30, 1959

Decided June 15, 1959

360 U.S. 264


At petitioner's trial in a state court in which he was convicted of murder, the principal state witness, an accomplice then serving a 199-year sentence for the same murder, testified in response to a question by the Assistant State's Attorney that he had received no promise of consideration in return for his testimony. The Assistant State's Attorney had in fact promised him consideration, but he did nothing to correct the witness' false testimony. The jury was apprised, however, that a public defender had promised "to do what he could" for the witness.

Held: The failure of the prosecutor to correct the testimony of the witness which he knew to be false denied petitioner due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 360 U. S. 265-272.

(a) The established principle that a State may not knowingly use false testimony to obtain a tainted conviction does not cease to apply merely because the false testimony goes only to the credibility of the witness. Pp. 360 U. S. 269-270.

(b) The fact that the jury was apprised of other grounds for believing that the witness may have had an interest in testifying against petitioner was not sufficient to turn what was otherwise a tainted trial into a fair one. Pp. 360 U. S. 270-271.

(c) Since petitioner claims denial of his rights under the Federal Constitution, this Court was not bound by the factual conclusion reached by the Illinois Supreme Court, but reexamined for itself the evidentiary basis on which that conclusion was founded. Pp. 360 U. S. 271-272.

13 Ill. 2d 566, 150 N. E. 2d 613, reversed.

Page 360 U. S. 265

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