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Manson v. Brathwaite


An undercover officer purchased heroin from a seller through the open doorway of an apartment. The transaction took two or three minutes while the officer stood within two feet of the seller in a hallway illuminated by natural light. The undercover officer described the seller to another officer, who suspected the defendant based on this description. The suspecting officer left a photograph of the defendant in the undercover officer’s office. He viewed it two days later and identified it as the picture of the seller. The defendant was charged with, and convicted of, possession and sale of heroin.


Whether the photograph tainted the undercover officer’s identification of the defendant?


No. Based on the “totality of the circumstances” the eyewitness’ identification of the defendant was reliable.


Reliability is the linchpin in determining the admissibility of identification testimony for identifications occurring prior to and after arrest. Reliability depends on the “totality of the circumstances.” The factors to be weighed against the corrupting effect of the suggestive procedure in assessing reliability are whether the witness had an opportunity to view the criminal at the time of the crime, the witness’ degree of attention, the accuracy of his prior description of the criminal, the level of certainty demonstrated at the confrontation, and the time between the crime and the confrontation. Under the “totality of the circumstances” in this case, there does not exist a very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification. A trained officer with a sufficient opportunity to view the suspect, who accurately described him, positively identified the defendant’s photograph as that of the suspect, and made the photograph identification only two days after the crime is reliable.


432 U.S. 98, 97 S. Ct. 2243 (1977)

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