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Ariz. v. Youngblood

Supreme Court of the United States

October 11, 1988, Argued ; November 29, 1988, Decided

No. 86-1904

Opinion

 [*52]   [***285]   [**334]  CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

 Respondent Larry Youngblood was convicted by a Pima County, Arizona, jury of child molestation, sexual assault, and kidnaping. The Arizona Court of Appeals reversed his conviction on the ground that the State had failed to preserve semen samples from the victim's body and clothing. 153 Ariz. 50, 734 P. 2d 592 (1986). We granted certiorari to consider the extent to which the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires the State to preserve evidentiary material that might be useful to a criminal defendant.

On October 29, 1983, David L., a 10-year-old boy, attended a church service with his mother. After he left the service at about 9:30 p.m., the boy went to a carnival behind  [***286]  the church, where he was abducted by a middle-aged man of medium height and weight. The assailant drove [****4]  the boy to a secluded area near a ravine and molested him. He then took the boy to an unidentified, sparsely furnished house where he sodomized the boy four times. Afterwards, the assailant tied the boy up while he went outside to start his car. Once the assailant started the car, albeit with some difficulty, he returned to the house and again sodomized the boy. The assailant then sent the boy to the bathroom to wash up before he returned him to the carnival. He threatened to kill the boy if he told anyone about the attack. The entire ordeal lasted about 1 1/2 hours.

After the boy made his way home, his mother took him to Kino Hospital. At the hospital, a physician treated the boy for rectal injuries. The physician also used a "sexual assault kit" to collect evidence of the attack. The Tucson Police Department  [*53]  provided such kits to all hospitals in Pima County for use in sexual assault cases. Under standard procedure, the victim of a sexual assault was taken to a hospital, where a physician used the kit to collect evidence. The kit included paper to collect saliva samples, a tube for obtaining a blood sample, microscopic slides for making  [**335]  smears, a set [****5]  of Q-Tip-like swabs, and a medical examination report. Here, the physician used the swab to collect samples from the boy's rectum and mouth. He then made a microscopic slide of the samples. The doctor also obtained samples of the boy's saliva, blood, and hair. The physician did not examine the samples at any time. The police placed the kit in a secure refrigerator at the police station. At the hospital, the police also collected the boy's underwear and T-shirt. This clothing was not refrigerated or frozen.

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488 U.S. 51 *; 109 S. Ct. 333 **; 102 L. Ed. 2d 281 ***; 1988 U.S. LEXIS 5404 ****; 57 U.S.L.W. 4013

ARIZONA, PETITIONER v. YOUNGBLOOD, LARRY

Prior History:  [****1]  CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF ARIZONA.

Disposition:  153 Ariz. 50, 734 P. 2d 592, reversed.

CORE TERMS

bad faith, tests, assailant, clothing, samples, cases, due process, good faith, blood, exonerated, preserved, court of appeals, refrigerate, semen sample, exculpatory, destroyed, swab, innocence, fair trial, deprived, guilt, exculpatory evidence, criminal defendant, criminologist, witnesses, failure to preserve, sexual assault, test result, destruction, semen

Criminal Law & Procedure, Discovery & Inspection, Brady Materials, Brady Claims, General Overview, Duty of Disclosure, Preliminary Proceedings, Pretrial Motions & Procedures, Suppression of Evidence, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Evidence, Relevance, Preservation of Relevant Evidence, Exclusion & Preservation by Prosecutors