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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Ash - 413 U.S. 300, 93 S. Ct. 2568 (1973)

Rule:

U.S. Const. amend VI does not grant the right to counsel at photographic displays conducted by the government for the purpose of allowing a witness to attempt an identification of the offender.

Facts:

After defendant Charles J. Ash, Jr., was indicted for bank robbery and shortly before his trial in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, an agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the prosecutor showed five color mug shots, including one of Ash, to government witnesses. Ash's counsel was not present during the photographic display. After trial, the jury convicted Ash. On Ash's appeal, the court of appeals reversed, holding that Ash's U.S. Const. amend. VI right to counsel at critical stages of the prosecution was violated by the photographic display. The Government was granted a writ of certiorari.

Issue:

Did the U.S. Const. amend. VI grant the right to counsel at photographic displays conducted by the government for the purpose of allowing a witness to attempt an identification of the offender?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The  Supreme Court of the United States reversed the appellate court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court applied a historical interpretation of the right to counsel and explained that expansion of the guarantee was warranted only when new contexts appeared presenting the same dangers that gave birth to the right. The Court held that even if it were willing to view the counsel guarantee in broad terms as a generalized protection of the adversary process, it would be unwilling to go so far as to extend the right to a portion of the Government's trial-preparation interviews with witnesses. The Court held that U.S. Const. amend. VI did not grant the right to counsel at photographic displays conducted by the government for the purpose of allowing a witness to attempt an identification of the offender.

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