USA > US Constitution > 6th Amendment > Lineups and Other Identification Situations

Lineups and Other Identification Situations

Lineups and Other Identification Situations. — The concept of the "critical stage" was again expanded and its rationale formulated in United States v. Wade,289 which, with Gilbert v. California,290 held that lineups are a critical stage and that in-court identification of defendants based on out-of-court lineups or show-ups without the presence of defendant's counsel is inadmissible. The Sixth Amendment guarantee, said Justice Brennan, was intended to do away with the common-law limitation of assistance of counsel to matters of law, excluding matters of fact. The abolition of the fact-law distinction took on new importance due to the changes in investigation and prosecution since adoption of the Sixth Amendment. "When the Bill of Rights was adopted there were no organized police forces as we know them today. The accused confronted the prosecutor and the witnesses against him and the evidence was marshalled, largely at the trial itself. In contrast, today's law enforcement machinery involves critical confrontations of the accused by the prosecution at pretrial proceedings where the results might well settle the accused's fate and reduce the trial itself to a mere formality. In recognition of these realities of modern criminal prosecution, our cases have construed the Sixth Amendment guarantee to apply to 'critical' stages of the proceedings.... The plain wording of this guarantee thus encompasses counsel's assistance whenever necessary to assure a meaningful 'defence."'291

"It is central to [the principle of Powell v. Alabama] that in addition to counsel's presence at trial, the accused is guaranteed that he need not stand alone against the State at any stage of the prosecution, formal or informal, in court or out, where counsel's absence might derogate from the accused's right to a fair trial."292 Counsel's presence at a lineup is constitutionally necessary because the lineup stage is filled with numerous possibilities for errors, both inadvertent and intentional, which cannot adequately be discovered and remedied at trial.293 However, because there was less certainty and frequency of possible injustice at this stage, the Court held that the two cases were to be given prospective effect only; more egregious instances, where identification had been based upon lineups conducted in a manner that was unnecessarily suggestive and conducive to irreparable mistaken identification, could be invalidated under the due process clause.294 The Wade- Gilbert rule is inapplicable to other methods of obtaining identification and other evidentiary material relating to the defendant, such as blood samples, handwriting exemplars, and the like, because there is minimal risk that the absence of counsel might derogate from the defendant's right to a fair trial.295chanrobles-red

289 388 U.S. 218 (1967).

290 388 U.S. 263 (1967).

291 United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218, 224-25 (1967) (citations omitted).

292 388 U.S. at 226 (citations omitted).

293 388 U.S. at 227-39. Previously, the manner of an extra-judicial identification affected only the weight, not the admissibility, of identification testimony at trial. Justices White, Harlan, and Stewart dissented, denying any objective need for the Court's per se rule and doubting its efficacy in any event. Id. at 250.

In United States v. Ash,296 the Court redefined and modified its "critical stage" analysis. According to the Court, the "core purpose" of the guarantee of counsel is to assure assistance at trial "when the accused was confronted with both the intricacies of the law and the advocacy of the public prosecutor." But assistance would be less than meaningful in the light of developments in criminal investigation and procedure if it were limited to the formal trial itself; therefore, counsel is compelled at "pretrial events that might appropriately be considered to be parts of the trial itself. At these newly emerging and significant events, the accused was confronted, just as at trial, by the procedural system, or by his expert adversary, or by both."297 Therefore, unless the pretrial stage involved the physical presence of the accused at a trial-like confrontation at which the accused requires the guiding hand of counsel, the Sixth Amendment does not guarantee the assistance of counsel.

Since the defendant was not present when witnesses to the crime viewed photographs of possible guilty parties, and therefore there was no trial-like confrontation, and since the possibilities of abuse in a photographic display are discoverable and reconstructable at trial by examination of witnesses, an indicted defendant is not entitled to have his counsel present at such a display.298chanrobles-red

294 Stovall v. Denno, 388 U.S. 293 (1967).

295 Gilbert v. California, 388 U.S. 263, 265-67 (1967) (handwriting exemplars); Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 765-66 (1966) (blood samples).

296 413 U.S. 300 (1973). Justices Brennan, Douglas, and Marshall dissented. Id. at 326.

297 413 U.S. at 309-10, 312-13. Justice Stewart, concurring on other grounds, rejected this analysis, id. at 321, as did the three dissenters. Id. at 326, 338-344. "The fundamental premise underlying all of this Court's decisions holding the right to counsel applicable at 'critical' pretrial proceedings, is that a 'stage' of the prosecution must be deemed 'critical' for the purposes of the Sixth Amendment if it is one at which the presence of counsel is necessary 'to protect the fairness of the trial itself."' Id. at 339 (Justice Brennan dissenting). Examination of defendant by a court-appointed psychiatrist to determine his competency to stand trial, after his indictment, was a "critical" stage, and he was entitled to the assistance of counsel before submitting to it. Estelle v. Smith, 451 U.S. 454, 469-71 (1981). Constructive notice is insufficient to alert counsel to a psychiatric examination to assess future dangerousness of an indicted client. Satterwhite v. Texas, 486 U.S. 249 (1987) (also subjecting Estelle v. Smith violations to harmless error analysis in capital cases).

Both Wade and Gilbert had already been indicted and counsel had been appointed to represent them when their lineups were conducted, a fact noted in the opinions and in subsequent ones,299 but the cases in which the rulings were denied retroactive application involved preindictment lineups.300 Nevertheless, in Kirby v. Illinois301 the Court held that no right to counsel existed with respect to lineups that precede some formal act of charging a suspect. The Sixth Amendment does not become operative, explained Justice Stewart's plurality opinion, until "the initiation of adversary judicial criminal proceedings—whether by way of formal charge, preliminary hearings, indictment, information, or arraignment.... The initiation of judicial criminal proceedings is far from a mere formalism. It is the starting point of our whole system of adversary criminal justice. For it is only then that the Government has committed itself to prosecute, and only then that the adverse positions of Government and defendant have solidified. It is then that a defendant finds himself faced with the prosecutorial forces of organized society, and immersed in the intricacies of substantive and procedural criminal law. It is this point, therefore, that marks the commencement of the 'criminal prosecutions' to which alone the explicit guarantees of the Sixth Amendment are applicable."302 The Court's distinguishing of the underlying basis for Miranda v. Arizona303 left that case basically unaffected by Kirby, but it appears that Escobedo v. Illinois,304 and perhaps other cases, are greatly restricted thereby.

298 413 U.S. at 317-21. The due process standards are discussed under the Fourteenth Amendment, "Criminal Identification Process," infra.

299 United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218, 219, 237 (1967); Gilbert v. California, 388 U.S. 263, 269, 272 (1967); Simmons v. United States, 390 U.S. 377, 382-83 (1968).

300 Stovall v. Denno, 388 U.S. 293 (1967); Foster v. California, 394 U.S. 440 (1969); Coleman v. Alabama, 399 U.S. 1 (1970).

301 406 U.S. 682, 689 (1972).

302 406 U.S. at 689-90. Justices Brennan, Douglas, and Marshall, dissenting, argued that it had never previously been doubted that Wade and Gilbert applied in preindictment lineup situations and that in any event the rationale of the rule was no different whatever the formal status of the case. Id. at 691. Justice White, a dissenter in Wade and Gilbert, dissented simply on the basis that those two cases controlled this one. Id. at 705. Indictment, as the quotation from Kirby indicates, is not a necessary precondition. Any initiation of judicial proceedings suffices. E.g., Brewer v. Williams, 430 U.S. 387 (1977) (suspect had been seized pursuant to an arrest warrant, arraigned, and committed by court). United States v. Gouveia, 467 U.S. 180 (1984) (Sixth Amendment attaches as of arraignment—there is no right to counsel for prison inmates placed under administrative segregation during a lengthy investigation of their participation in prison crimes).

303 "[T]he Miranda decision was based exclusively upon the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination, upon the theory that custodial interrogation is inherently coercive." 406 U.S. at 688 (emphasis by Court).

304 "But Escobedo is not apposite here for two distinct reasons. First, the Court in retrospect perceived that the 'prime purpose' of Escobedo was not to vindicate the constitutional right to counsel as such, but, like Miranda, 'to guarantee full effectuation of the privilege against self-incrimination....' Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719, 729. Secondly, and perhaps even more important for purely practical purposes, the Court has limited the holding of Escobedo to its own facts, Johnson v. New Jersey, supra, at 733-34, and those facts are not remotely akin to the facts of the case before us." 406 U.S. at 689. But see id. at 693 n.3 (Justice Brennan dissenting).

Home | US Supreme Court Decisions On-Line | per Volume | per Year

ChanRobles Legal Resources:

ChanRobles On-Line Bar Review

ChanRobles Internet Bar Review :

ChanRobles MCLE On-line

ChanRobles Lawnet Inc. - ChanRobles MCLE On-line :