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Wong Sun v. United States


Agents illegally seized Johnny Yee, then “Blackie” Toy, who led the agents to Wong Sun’s neighborhood where Toy pointed out where Wong Sun lived. An agent rang a doorbell, identified himself as a narcotics agent to the woman on the landing, and asked for “Mr. Wong Sun.” The woman told the agent Wong Sun was “in the back room sleeping.” The agent and six other officers entered the apartment. One of the officers went into the back room and brought Wong Sun from the bedroom in handcuffs. A thorough search of the apartment followed, but the officers did not discover any narcotic; however, Wong Sun made incriminating statements to the officers.

The government tried Wong Sun for distribution of narcotics. The trial court admitted the government’s evidence over the objections by the defense that the following items were fruits of unlawful arrests and searches: (1) the statements made orally by Toy at the time of his arrest; (2) the heroin surrendered by Johnny Yee; (3) Toy’s pretrial unsigned statement; and (4) Wong Sun’s statements.


Whether the four items of evidence were admissible against the defendant Wong Sun?


Yes. Wong Sun did not have standing to object to the introduction of the first three pieces of evidence and Wong Sun’s statements were admissible.


A search that is unlawful at its inception is not validated by what officers discover in that search. However, even though contraband seized by officers is inadmissible against one defendant, it is admissible against another who has not suffered the unauthorized invasion of his privacy. Defendants must have standing to object.

As for the defendant’s statements, “The exclusionary rule has no application because the Government learned of the evidence from an independent source. . . . We need not hold that all evidence is the fruit of the poisonous tree simply because it would not have come to light but for the illegal actions of the police. Rather, the more apt question in such a case is whether, granting establishment of the primary illegality, the evidence to which instant objection is made has been come at by exploitation of that illegality or instead by means sufficiently distinguishable to be purged of the primary taint.” The Court held that the illegality that led to the defendant’s statements had become attenuated.


371 U.S. 471, 83 S. Ct. 407 (1963)

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