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Simmons v. United States - 390 U.S. 377, 88 S. Ct. 967 (1968)

Rule:

Each case in which an identification by photograph is made must be considered on its own facts. Convictions based on eyewitness identification at trial following a pretrial identification by photograph will be set aside on the ground of misidentification only if the photographic identification procedure was so impermissibly suggestive as to give rise to a very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification.

Facts:

Defendants, Simmons and Garrett, were convicted in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for the armed robbery of a federally insured savings and loan association. Before the trial the bank employees who had witnessed the robbery identified photographs of defendants as representing the robbers, and during the trial, the same employees identified defendants as the robbers. Garrett’s testimony at his unsuccessful pretrial motion for suppression of certain evidence was admitted against him at the trial, and the District Court denied the defendants' request for production of the photographs that had been shown to the witnesses before the trial. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the convictions. In their petitions for certiorari review, defendants challenged their convictions; Simmons alleged that a pretrial photographic identification was unnecessarily suggestive and conducive to misidentification, denying him due process of law. Both defendants also claimed error in the District Court's refusal to order production of the pictures under the Jencks Act. Garrett alleged that his constitutional rights were violated when testimony in support of a suppression motion was admitted against him at trial.

Issue:

  1. Did the pre-trial photographic identification violate defendant Simmon’s right to due process?
  2. Were the constitutional rights of defendant Garrett violated when his testimony at his unsuccessful pretrial motion was admitted against him?

Answer:

1) No. 2) Yes.

Conclusion:

The United States Supreme Court held that under the factual circumstances, Simmon’s due process rights were not violated because the photos were not shown at a "critical stage" of prosecution. The Jencks Act was not violated, as the photographs were not incorporated in written statements of witnesses, as required by § 3500. Anent the second issue, the Court held that when Garrett testified in support of his suppression motion on U.S. Const. amend. IV grounds, his testimony could not be admitted against him at trial on the issue of guilt unless he waived his U.S. Const. amend. V privilege against self-incrimination. Hence, the Court affirmed the armed robbery conviction as to Simmons but reversed the judgment as to Garrett.

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