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It is one thing to say that the government cannot make an affirmative use of evidence unlawfully obtained. It is quite another to say that the defendant can turn the illegal method by which evidence in the government's possession was obtained to his own advantage, and provide himself with a shield against contradiction of his untruths. Such an extension of the Weeks doctrine would be a perversion of the Fourth Amendment.
Because heroin had been obtained from petitioner through unlawful search and seizure, its use in evidence was suppressed on petitioner's motion; and an indictment against him for its possession was dismissed on the Government's motion. In his subsequent trial for other illicit transactions in narcotics, petitioner testified on direct examination that he had never purchased, sold or possessed any narcotics. In order to impeach this testimony, the Government introduced the testimony of an officer who had participated in the unlawful search and seizure of the heroin involved in the earlier proceeding and the chemist who had analyzed it. The trial judge admitted the evidence, but carefully charged the jury that it was not to be used to determine whether the petitioner had committed the crimes presently charged, but solely for the purpose of impeaching petitioner’s credibility. The petitioner was convicted, and the Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Was the government allowed to raise evidence illegally obtained in a prior case in order to impeach petitioner’s credibility in the current case?
The Court held that while the government could not affirmatively use evidence unlawfully obtained, petitioner could not turn the illegal method by which the evidence in the government's possession was obtained to his own advantage and provide himself with a shield against contradictions of his untruths. The Court held that petitioner could not be allowed to resort to perjurious testimony in reliance of the government's inability to challenge his credibility. The Court held that petitioner opened the door to attacks on his credibility.