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The burden is on the accused in the first instance to prove to the trial court's satisfaction that wire-tapping was unlawfully employed. Once that is established, the trial judge must give opportunity, however closely confined, to the accused to prove that a substantial portion of the case against him was a fruit of the poisonous tree. This leaves ample opportunity to the Government to convince the trial court that its proof had an independent origin.
The Court had reversed defendants' convictions on their first trial for fraud because the convictions resulted from evidence secured in violation of § 605 of the Communications Act of 1934. Defendants’ motion for new trial was granted. On their second trial, defendants were again convicted. Defendants argued on appeal that the trial judge improperly refused to allow them to examine the prosecution on the uses to which it had put the illegally obtained information.
Did § 605 of the Communications Act of 1934 merely interdict the introduction into evidence in a federal trial of intercepted telephone conversations, leaving the prosecution free to make every other use of the proscribed evidence?
The court noted that the result of the appellate court’s holding was to reduce the scope of § 605 to exclude only the exact words heard through forbidden interceptions, but to allow the interceptions every derivative use they might serve. The Court found such a reading of § 605 would largely stultify the policy behind the statute. Thus, in reversing defendants' convictions, the Court held that the prosecution could not use the illegally obtained information without gaining knowledge of the information from an independent source.