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Law School Case Brief

State v. Dessureault - 104 Ariz. 380, 453 P.2d 951 (1969)

Rule:

Where the in-court identification is challenged at the trial level, meaningful review requires that the appellate court reach one of the following conclusions: if it can be determined from the record on clear and convincing evidence that the in-court identification is not tainted by the prior identification procedures or from evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that it is harmless, and there is otherwise no error, the conviction will be affirmed. If it can be determined from the record that the in-court identification is tainted and that it does not appear harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, the conviction will be reversed. If the record does not permit an informed judgment that the in-court identification has an independent source is not tainted and is not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, the cause will be remanded to the lower court for a hearing at which findings of fact must be made and the record then be transmitted to the appellate court for its independent scrutiny, where a decision will be made giving the customary weight to the trial court's findings.

Facts:

At about 1:00 am on June 20, 1967, while Ronald E. Wilkins was working in a store alone, defendant Robert Gary Dessureault, through the use of intimidation, took the contents of the cash register. Early the next morning, an informant telephoned the police and gave them information which led to Dessureault's arrest. The police arrested Dessureault at his residence and after a search of his automobile and room, found a loaded gun and money in the exact amount taken from the store. At about the hour of 10:00 a.m., a lineup was held in which Dessureault was present with three others. Wilkins identified Dessureault as the robber. Dessureault did not have an attorney present at the lineup nor did it appear that he intelligently and voluntarily waived any constitutional rights which he might have had to an attorney. He was thereafter charged under Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-641 with the robbery of a store. At trial in Arizona state court, Wilkins identified Dessureault as the robber. Subsequently, Dessureault was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to a term of years in the state penitentiary. On appeal, Dessureault challenged the identification in all of its ramifications.

Issue:

Was it proper to convict Dessureault based on Wilkins' positive identification?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The state supreme court affirmed the trial court's judgment. The court determined that although the record supported the conclusion that the pretrial identification was unduly suggestive, the in-court identification had an independent source other than the lineup. The court explained that the evidence was clear and convincing that Wilkins' final identification at trial was from his initial contact with Dessureault at the time of the holdup. The court concluded that while Wilkins acknowledged on cross-examination that the lineup identification helped in making the in-court identification, the reinforcement of a witness's identification, such as Wilkins', was inherent in every case, and could not be avoided. The court noted that Dessureault's face was not lacking in distinctive character, and would not be readily confused.

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