UNITED STATES V. WADE, 388 U. S. 218 (1967)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218 (1967)

United States v. Wade

No. 334

Argued February 16, 1967

Decided June 12, 1967

388 U.S. 218


Several weeks after respondent's indictment for robbery of a federally insured bank and for conspiracy, respondent, without notice to his appointed counsel, was placed in a lineup in which each person wore strips of tape on his face, as the robber allegedly had done, and, on direction, repeated words like those the robber allegedly had used. Two bank employees identified respondent as the robber. At the trial, when asked if the robber was in the courtroom, they identified respondent. The prior lineup identifications were elicited on cross-examination. Urging that the conduct of the lineup violated his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, respondent filed a motion for judgment of acquittal or, alternatively, to strike the courtroom identifications. The trial court denied the motions, and respondent was convicted. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that, though there was no Fifth Amendment deprivation, the absence of counsel at the lineup denied respondent his right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment and required the grant of a new trial at which the in-court identifications of those who had made lineup identifications would be excluded.


1. Neither the lineup itself nor anything required therein violated respondent's Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, since merely exhibiting his person for observation by witnesses and using his voice as an identifying physical characteristic involved no compulsion of the accused to give evidence of a testimonial nature against himself which is prohibited by that Amendment. Pp. 388 U. S. 221-223.

2. The Sixth Amendment guarantees an accused the right to counsel not only at his trial but at any critical confrontation by the prosecution at pretrial proceedings where the results might well determine his fate and where the absence of counsel might derogate from his right to a fair trial. Pp. 388 U. S. 223-227.

3. The post-indictment lineup (unlike such preparatory steps as analyzing fingerprints and blood samples) was a critical prosecutive stage at which respondent was entitled to the aid of counsel. Pp. 388 U. S. 227-239.

Page 388 U. S. 219

(a) There is a great possibility of unfairness to the accused at that point, (1) because of the manner in which confrontations for identification are frequently conducted, (2) because of dangers inherent in eyewitness identification and suggestibility' inherent in the context of the confrontations, and (3) because of the likelihood that the accused will often be precluded from reconstructing what occurred, and thereby obtaining a full hearing on the identification issue at trial. Pp. 388 U. S. 229-235.

(b) This case illustrates the potential for improper influence on witnesses through the lineup procedure, since the bank employees were allowed to see respondent in the custody of FBI agents before the lineup began. Pp. 388 U. S. 233-234.

(c) The presence of counsel at the lineup will significantly promote fairness at the confrontation and a full hearing at trial on the issue of identification. Pp. 388 U. S. 236-238.

4. In-court identification by a witness to whom the accused was exhibited before trial in the absence of counsel must be excluded unless it can be established that such evidence had an independent origin or that error in its admission was harmless. Since it is not clear that the Court of Appeals applied the prescribed rule of exclusion, and since the nature of the in-court identifications here was not an issue in the trial and cannot be determined on the record, the case must be remanded to the District Court for resolution of these issues. Pp. 388 U. S. 239-243.

358 F.2d 557, vacated and remanded.

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