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United States v. Crews


The defendant was seen in the general area of some recent crimes. He resembled a police “lookout” that described the perpetrator. An eyewitness to one of the crimes tentatively identified the defendant to a law enforcement officer as he left a nearby restroom. The officers detained the defendant and summoned the detective assigned to the robberies. Upon his arrival ten to fifteen minutes later, his attempt to take a photograph of the defendant was thwarted by the inclement weather. The officers then took the defendant into custody, ostensibly because he was a suspected truant. The officers took a photograph of the defendant at the station.

The following day, the police showed the first victim a photo display including a photo of the defendant. She immediately selected the defendant as her assailant. Later, another victim made a similar identification. The officers arrested the defendant. At a courtordered lineup, the two women who had previously made the photographic identifications positively identified the defendant as their assailant. The defendant was later identified in court by the two witnesses.


Whether the in-court identification was tainted by the identifications made through the illegal seizure?


No. In-court identification can be tainted by identifications made through an illegal seizure; however, in this instance, the eyewitness’ identification was not the result of the illegal seizure.


The police knew the victim’s identity before the arrest and was not discovered because of the unlawful seizure. Also, the unlawful police conduct did not bias the victim’s capacity to identify the perpetrator of the crime.

“The exclusionary rule enjoins the Government from benefiting from evidence it has unlawfully obtained; it does not reach backward to taint information that was in official hands prior to any illegality. . . . The pretrial identification obtained through use of the photograph taken during defendant’s illegal detention cannot be introduced; but the in-court identification is admissible . . . because the police’s knowledge of defendant’s identity and the victim’s independent recollections of him both antedated the unlawful arrest and were thus untainted by the constitutional violation.”


445 U.S. 463, 100 S. Ct. 1244 (1980)

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