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Davis v. Alaska

Supreme Court of the United States

December 12, 1973, Argued ; February 27, 1974, Decided

No. 72-5794

Opinion

 [*309]   [***349]   [**1107]  MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

 

We granted certiorari in this case to consider whether the Confrontation Clause requires that a defendant in a criminal case be allowed to impeach the credibility of a prosecution witness by cross-examination directed at possible bias deriving from the witness' probationary status as a juvenile delinquent  [***350]  when such an impeachment would conflict with a State's asserted [****3]  interest in preserving the confidentiality of juvenile adjudications of delinquency.

When the Polar Bar in Anchorage closed in the early morning hours of February 16, 1970, well over a thousand dollars in cash and checks was in the bar's Mosler safe. About midday, February 16, it was discovered that the bar had been broken into and the safe, about two feet square and weighing several hundred pounds, had been removed from the premises.

Later that afternoon the Alaska State Troopers received word that a safe had been discovered about 26 miles outside Anchorage near the home of Jess Straight and his family. The safe, which was subsequently determined to be the one stolen from the Polar Bar, had been pried open and the contents removed. Richard Green, Jess Straight's stepson, told investigating troopers on the scene that at about noon on February 16 he had seen and spoken with two Negro men standing alongside a late-model metallic blue Chevrolet sedan near where the safe was later discovered. The next day Anchorage  [*310]  police investigators brought him to the police station where Green was given six photographs of adult Negro males. After examining the photographs for  [****4]  30 seconds to a minute, Green identified the photograph of petitioner as that of one of the men he had encountered the day before and described to the police. Petitioner was arrested the next day, February 18. On February 19, Green picked petitioner out of a lineup of seven Negro males.

At trial, evidence was introduced to the effect that paint chips found in the trunk of petitioner's rented blue Chevrolet could have originated from the surface of the stolen safe. Further, the trunk of the car contained particles which were identified as safe insulation characteristic of that found in Mosler safes. The insulation found in the trunk matched that of the stolen safe.

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415 U.S. 308 *; 94 S. Ct. 1105 **; 39 L. Ed. 2d 347 ***; 1974 U.S. LEXIS 104 ****

DAVIS v. ALASKA

Prior History:  [****1]  CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ALASKA.

Disposition:  499 P. 2d 1025, reversed and remanded.

CORE TERMS

cross-examination, juvenile, safe, confrontation, delinquency, identification, credibility, probation, burglary, juvenile offender, defense counsel, questions, impeach, possible bias, exposure, bias

Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Right to Confrontation, Criminal Law & Procedure, Trials, Examination of Witnesses, Cross-Examination, Evidence, Examination, Cross-Examinations, General Overview, Credibility of Witnesses, Impeachment, Bias, Motive & Prejudice, Witnesses, Impeachment, Types of Evidence, Testimony, Appeals, Reversible Error, Juvenile Offenders, Defendant's Rights