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UNITED STATES v. O'CONNOR

April 9, 1968

UNITED STATES of America
v.
Benjamin O'CONNOR



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GASCH

 GASCH, District Judge.

 The opinion of the Supreme Court in Stovall v. Denno, 388 U.S. 293, 87 S. Ct. 1967, 18 L. Ed. 2d 1199 (June 12, 1967) directed new attention to the proposition that a pretrial confrontation between witness and defendant may be "so unnecessarily suggestive and conducive to irreparable mistaken identification" *fn1" as to amount to a denial of due process of law. Stovall, United States v. Wade, *fn2" and Gilbert v. California, *fn3" all published on the same day, comprise a trilogy which indicates the concern of the Supreme Court over "line-up" and "show-up" procedures that might lead to mistaken identification of a suspect by a witness who is prejudicially amenable to the power of suggestion. Wade and Gilbert establish a right to counsel at pretrial confrontations and although the extent of this right in particular circumstances has yet to be authoritatively determined, it is clear that these two cases do not have retroactive application. *fn4" There is no question of the retroactivity of Part II of Stovall, however, for the due process concept there enunciated is an integral part of our criminal jurisprudence. The impact of Stovall, therefore, has manifested itself not in the creation of new law, but rather in a re-evaluation of traditional due process concepts with a view toward contemporary law enforcement practices.

 The main theme of the Stovall decision concerned the possible unfairness of a procedure by which a witness is confronted with one suspect rather than being asked to identify one individual from a number of possibilities. It is clear that this possibility of unfairness potentially amounting to a denial of due process must be examined in the context of the totality of the circumstances surrounding the challenged confrontation. *fn5"

 Since the Stovall decision, this jurisdiction has had the benefit of two appellate opinions on the issue, Wise v. United States, 127 U.S. App. D.C. 279, 383 F.2d 206 (1967), and Wright v. United States, supra, note 4. The first of these cases, Wise, established the proposition that where the confrontation occurs proximate to the scene and time of the offense as well as the arrest, and in the absence of other aggravating factors which might increase the possibility of a mistaken identification, presentation of a single suspect to a witness for purposes of identification does not "diverge from the rudiments of fair play that govern the due balance of pertinent interests that suspects be treated fairly while the state pursues its responsibility of apprehending criminals." *fn6" Wright involved a confrontation between witness and suspect at a police station. Speaking for the majority, Judge Robinson refused to rule on the merits of the Stovall challenge without amplification of the record as to pertinent facts. In remanding the case, however, the majority indicated the particular nature of some of the missing data. *fn7" Therefore, with these cases in mind, the Court concluded that the following factors are relevant in determining whether a pretrial confrontation between a suspect and the identifying witnesses was "so unnecessarily suggestive and conducive to irreparable mistaken identification that he was denied due process of law." *fn8"

 1. Was the defendant the only individual that could possibly be identified as the guilty party by the complaining witness, or were there others near him at the time of the confrontation so as to negate the assertion that he was shown alone to the witness?

 2. Where did the confrontation take place? *fn9"

 3. Were there any compelling reasons for a prompt confrontation so as to deprive the police of the opportunity of securing other similar individuals for the purpose of holding a line-up? *fn10"

 4. Was the witness aware of any observation by another or other evidence indicating the guilt of the suspect at the time of the confrontation?

 5. Were any tangible objects related to the offense placed before the witness that would encourage identification? *fn11"

 6. Was the witness' identification based on only part of the suspect's total personality? *fn12"

 7. Was the identification a product of mutual reinforcement of opinion among witnesses ...


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