WONG SUN v. UNITED STATES No. 36.
371 U.S. 471 (1963)
WONG SUN ET AL. v. UNITED STATES.
Supreme Court of United States.
Decided January 14, 1963.
Edward Bennett Williams, acting under appointment by the Court, 368 U.S. 973, reargued the cause and filed a supplemental brief for petitioners. Sol A. Abrams also filed a brief for petitioners.
J. William Doolittle reargued the cause for the United States. On the brief were Solicitor General Cox, Assistant Attorney General Miller, Beatrice Rosenberg and J. F. Bishop.
MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
The petitioners were tried without a jury in the District Court for the Northern District of California under a two-count indictment for violation of the Federal Narcotics
About 2 a. m. on the morning of June 4, 1959, federal narcotics agents in San Francisco, after having had one Hom Way under surveillance for six weeks, arrested him and found heroin in his possession. Hom Way, who had not before been an informant, stated after his arrest that he had bought an ounce of heroin the night before from one known to him only as "Blackie Toy," proprietor of a laundry on Leavenworth Street.
About 6 a. m. that morning six or seven federal agents went to a laundry at 1733 Leavenworth Street. The sign
One of the agents said to Toy ". . . [Hom Way] says he got narcotics from you." Toy responded, "No. I haven't been selling any narcotics at all. However, I do know somebody who has." When asked who that was, Toy said, "I only know him as Johnny. I don't know his last name." However, Toy described a house on Eleventh Avenue where he said Johnny lived; he also described a bedroom in the house where he said "Johnny kept about a piece"
Toy was questioned as to the identity of "Sea Dog" and said that "Sea Dog" was Wong Sun. Some agents, including Agent Alton Wong, took Toy to Wong Sun's neighborhood where Toy pointed out a multifamily dwelling where he said Wong Sun lived. Agent Wong rang a downstairs door bell and a buzzer sounded, opening the door. The officer identified himself as a narcotics agent to a woman on the landing and asked "for Mr. Wong." The woman was the wife of petitioner Wong Sun. She said that Wong Sun was "in the back room sleeping." Alton Wong and some six other officers climbed the stairs and entered the apartment. One of the officers went into the back room and brought petitioner Wong Sun from the bedroom in handcuffs. A thorough search of the apartment followed, but no narcotics were discovered.
Petitioner Toy and Johnny Yee were arraigned before a United States Commissioner on June 4 on a complaint charging a violation of 21 U. S. C. § 174. Later that day, each was released on his own recognizance. Petitioner Wong Sun was arraigned on a similar complaint filed the next day and was also released on his own recognizance.
The agent interrogated each of the three separately. After each had been interrogated the agent prepared a statement in English from rough notes. The agent read petitioner Toy's statement to him in English and interpreted certain portions of it for him in Chinese. Toy also read the statement in English aloud to the agent, said there were corrections to be made, and made the corrections in his own hand. Toy would not sign the statement, however; in the agent's words "he wanted to know first if the other persons involved in the case had signed theirs." Wong Sun had considerable difficulty understanding the
Hom Way did not testify at petitioners' trial. The Government offered Johnny Yee as its principal witness but excused him after he invoked the privilege against self-incrimination and flatly repudiated the statement he had given to Agent William Wong. That statement was not offered in evidence nor was any testimony elicited from him identifying either petitioner as the source of the heroin in his possession, or otherwise tending to support the charges against the petitioners.
The statute expressly provides that proof of the accused's possession of the drug will support a conviction under the statute unless the accused satisfactorily explains the possession. The Government's evidence tending to prove the petitioners' possession (the petitioners offered no exculpatory testimony) consisted of four items which the trial court admitted over timely objections that they were inadmissible as "fruits" of unlawful arrests or of attendant searches: (1) the statements made orally by petitioner Toy in his bedroom at the time of his arrest; (2) the heroin surrendered to the agents by Johnny Yee; (3) petitioner Toy's pretrial unsigned statement; and (4) petitioner Wong Sun's similar statement. The dispute below and here has centered around the correctness of the rulings of the trial judge allowing these items in evidence.
The Court of Appeals held that the arrests of both petitioners were illegal because not based on " `probable cause' within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment" nor "reasonable grounds" within the meaning of the Narcotic
The Court of Appeals rejected two additional contentions of the petitioners. The first was that there was insufficient evidence to corroborate the petitioners' unsigned admissions of possession of narcotics. The court held that the narcotics in evidence surrendered by Johnny Yee, together with Toy's statements in his bedroom at the time of arrest corroborated petitioners' admissions. The second contention was that the confessions were
We believe that significant differences between the cases of the two petitioners require separate discussion of each. We shall first consider the case of petitioner Toy.
The Court of Appeals found there was neither reasonable grounds nor probable cause for Toy's arrest. Giving due weight to that finding, we think it is amply justified by the facts clearly shown on this record. It is basic that an arrest with or without a warrant must stand upon firmer ground than mere suspicion, see Henry v. United States,
Whether or not the requirements of reliability and particularity of the information on which an officer may act are more stringent where an arrest warrant is absent, they surely cannot be less stringent than where an arrest warrant is obtained. Otherwise, a principal incentive now
The narcotics agents had no basis in experience for confidence in the reliability of Hom Way's information; he had never before given information. And yet they acted upon his imprecise suggestion that a person described only as "Blackie Toy," the proprietor of a laundry somewhere on Leavenworth Street, had sold one ounce of heroin. We have held that identification of the suspect by a reliable informant may constitute probable cause for arrest where the information given is sufficiently accurate to lead the officers directly to the suspect. Draper v. United States,
It is conceded that the officers made no attempt to obtain a warrant for Toy's arrest. The simple fact is that on the sparse information at the officers' command, no arrest warrant could have issued consistently with Rules 3 and 4 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Giordenello v. United States,
The Government contends, however, that any defects in the information which somehow took the officers to petitioner Toy's laundry were remedied by events which occurred after they arrived. Specifically, it is urged that Toy's flight down the hall when the supposed customer at the door revealed that he was a narcotics agent adequately corroborates the suspicion generated by Hom Way's accusation. Our holding in Miller v. United States,
Moreover, he made no effort at that time, nor indeed at any time thereafter, to ascertain whether the man at the door was the "Blackie Toy" named by Hom Way. Therefore, this is not the case we hypothesized in Miller where "without an express announcement of purpose, the facts known to officers would justify them in being virtually certain" that the person at the door knows their purpose. 357 U. S., at 310. Toy's refusal to admit the officers and his flight down the hallway thus signified a guilty knowledge no more clearly than it did a natural desire to repel an apparently unauthorized intrusion.
A contrary holding here would mean that a vague suspicion could be transformed into probable cause for arrest by reason of ambiguous conduct which the arresting officers themselves have provoked. Cf. Henry v. United States,
It is conceded that Toy's declarations in his bedroom are to be excluded if they are held to be "fruits" of the agents' unlawful action.
In order to make effective the fundamental constitutional guarantees of sanctity of the home and inviolability of the person, Boyd v. United States,
The exclusionary rule has traditionally barred from trial physical, tangible materials obtained either during or as a direct result of an unlawful invasion. It follows from our holding in Silverman v. United States,
The Government argues that Toy's statements to the officers in his bedroom, although closely consequent upon the invasion which we hold unlawful, were nevertheless admissible because they resulted from "an intervening independent act of a free will." This contention, however, takes insufficient account of the circumstances. Six or seven officers had broken the door and followed on Toy's heels into the bedroom where his wife and child were sleeping. He had been almost immediately handcuffed and arrested. Under such circumstances it is unreasonable to infer that Toy's response was sufficiently an act of free will to purge the primary taint of the unlawful invasion.
We now consider whether the exclusion of Toy's declarations requires also the exclusion of the narcotics taken from Yee, to which those declarations led the police. The prosecutor candidly told the trial court that "we wouldn't have found those drugs except that Mr. Toy helped us to." Hence this is not the case envisioned by this Court where the exclusionary rule has no application because the Government learned of the evidence "from an independent source," Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States,
It remains only to consider Toy's unsigned statement. We need not decide whether, in light of the fact that Toy was free on his own recognizance when he made the statement, that statement was a fruit of the illegal arrest. Cf. United States v. Bayer,
It is a settled principle of the administration of criminal justice in the federal courts that a conviction must rest upon firmer ground than the uncorroborated admission or
It is true that in Smith v. United States, supra, we held that although "corroboration is necessary for all elements of the offense established by admissions alone," extrinsic proof was sufficient which "merely fortifies the truth of the confession, without independently establishing the crime charged . . . ." 348 U. S., at 156.
We turn now to the case of the other petitioner, Wong Sun. We have no occasion to disagree with the finding of the Court of Appeals that his arrest, also, was without probable cause or reasonable grounds. At all events no evidentiary consequences turn upon that question. For Wong Sun's unsigned confession was not the fruit of that arrest, and was therefore properly admitted at trial. On the evidence that Wong Sun had been released on his own recognizance after a lawful arraignment, and had returned voluntarily several days later to make the statement, we hold that the connection between the arrest and the statement had "become so attenuated as to dissipate the taint." Nardone v. United States,
We must then consider the admissibility of the narcotics surrendered by Yee. Our holding, supra, that this
However, for the reasons that Wong Sun's statement was incompetent to corroborate Toy's admissions contained in Toy's own statement, any references to Wong Sun in Toy's statement were incompetent to corroborate Wong Sun's admissions. Thus, the only competent source of corroboration for Wong Sun's statement was the heroin itself. We cannot be certain, however, on this state of the record, that the trial judge may not also have considered the contents of Toy's statement as a source of corroboration. Petitioners raised as one ground of objection to the introduction of the statements the claim that each statement, "even if it were a purported admission or confession or declaration against interest of a defendant . . . would not be binding upon the other defendant." The trial judge, in allowing the statements in, apparently overruled all of petitioners' objections, including this one. Thus we presume that he considered all portions of both statements as bearing upon the guilt of both petitioners.
We intimate no view one way or the other as to whether the trial judge might have found in the narcotics alone sufficient evidence to corroborate Wong Sun's admissions
Surely, under the narcotics statute, the discovery of heroin raises a presumption that someone—generally the possessor—violated the law. As to him, once possession alone is proved, the other elements of the offense—transportation and concealment with knowledge of the illegal importation of the drug—need not be separately demonstrated, much less corroborated. 21 U. S. C. § 174. Thus particular care ought to be taken in this area, when the crucial element of the accused's possession is proved solely by his own admissions, that the requisite corroboration be found among the evidence which is properly before the trier of facts. We therefore hold that petitioner Wong Sun is also entitled to a new trial.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the case is remanded to the District Court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
[For concurring opinion of MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, see post, p. 497.]
[For dissenting opinion of MR. JUSTICE CLARK, see post, p. 498.]
APPENDIX TO OPINION OF THE COURT.
Statement of JAMES WAH TOY taken on June 5, 1959, concerning his knowledge of WONG SUN's narcotic trafficking
I have know WONG SUN for about 3 months. I know him as SEA DOG which is what everyone calls him.
Sometime during April or May of this year, he asked me to drive him out to JOHNNY YEE's house, at 11th and Balboa Streets. He asked me to call JOHNNY and tell him we were coming. When we got there we went into the house and WONG SUN took a paper package out of his pocket and put it on the table. Then both WONG SUN and JOHNNY YEE opened the package. I don't know how much heroin was in it, but I know it was more than 10 spoons. I asked them if I could have some for myself and they said yes. I took a little bit and went across the room and smoked it in a cigarette.
WONG SUN and JOHNNY YEE talked for about 10 or 15 minutes, but they were talking in low tones so that I could not hear what they were saying. I didn't see any money change hands, because I wasn't paying too much attention. WONG SUN and I then left the house and drove. I drove WONG SUN to his home and he gave me $15.00. He said the money was for driving him out there.
I have driven WONG SUN out to JOHNNY YEE's house about 5 times altogether. Each time WONG SUN gave me $10 or $15 for doing it and also, Johnny gave me a little heroin—enough to put in 3 or 4 cigarettes. The last time I drove WONG SUN out to YEE's house was last Tuesday, May 26, 1959. On Wednesday night June 3, 1959, at about 10:00 p. m., I called JOHNNY YEE and told him that "I'm coming out pretty soon—I don't have anything." He said okay, so I drove out there. When I got there I went in the house and Johnny gave me a paper of heroin. The bindle had about enough for 5 or 6 cigarettes. I didn't give him any money and he didn't ask for any. He gives it to me just out of friendship. He has given me heroin like this quite a few times. I don't remember how many times. I have known HOM WEI
I have carefully read the foregoing statement, which was made of my own free will, without promise of reward or immunity and not under duress. I have been given ample opportunity to make corrections have initialed or signed each page as evidence thereof and hereby state that this statement is true to the best of my knowledge and belief.
JAMES WAH TOY did not wish to sign this statement at this time. He stated he may change his mind at a later date. However, I read this statement to him and in addition he read it also and stated that the contents thereof were true to the best of his knowledge. Corrections made were by JAMES WAH TOY without his initials.
STATEMENT OF WONG SUN
I met JAMES TOY approximately the middle of March, this year, at Marysville, California, during a Chinese celebration. We returned to San Francisco together and we discussed the possible sale of heroin. I told JAMES that I could get a piece of heroin for $450 from a person known as BILL.
Shortly after returning to San Francisco, JAMES told me he wanted me to get a piece. I asked him who it was
On several occasions after I had obtained the piece for JAMES I would drive with him to JOHNNY's house, 606 11th Avenue, and we would go upstairs to the bedroom. There, all three of us would smoke some of the heroin and JAMES would give the piece to JOHNNY. I also went with JAMES on approximately 3 other occasions when he did not take any heroin and then we smoked at JOHNNY's and we would also get some for our own use.
About 4 days before I was arrested (arrested on June 4, 1959) JAMES called me at home about 7 o'clock in the evening and told me to come by. I went to the laundry and JAMES told me to get a piece. I called BILL and arranged to meet him. JAMES gave me $450 which I gave to BILL when I met him. BILL called me about one hour later at the laundry and I met him. He gave me one piece, which I gave to JAMES, and JAMES immediately thereafter called JOHNNY. We drove to 606— 11th Ave. at approximately midnight and JAMES gave the piece to JOHNNY. It was contained in a rubber contraceptive in a small brown paper bag.
Again on June 3rd, the night before I was arrested, I met JAMES at the laundry, prior to 11 o'clock in the evening, and JAMES telephoned JOHNNY at EV—6-9336. Then we went out to JOHNNY's and smoked heroin and also had one paper for our own use later. We were there approximately 1/2 hour and then left.
The laundry mentioned is OYE's LAUNDRY, 1733 Leavenworth Street, which is run by JAMES TOY. I do not know JOHNNY's last name and know him only
I have carefully read the foregoing statement, consisting of 2 pages which was made of my own free will, without promise of reward or immunity and not under duress. I have been given ample opportunity to make corrections, have initialed or signed each page as evidence thereof and hereby state that this statement is true to the best of my knowledge and belief.
WONG SUN, being unable to read English, did not sign this statement. However, I read this statement to him and he stated that the contents thereof were true to the best of his knowledge.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, concurring.
While I join the Court's opinion I do so because nothing the Court holds is inconsistent with my belief that there having been time to get a warrant, probable cause alone could not have justified the arrest of petitioner Toy without a warrant.
I adhere to the views I expressed in Jones v. United States,
The Court finds it unnecessary to reach that constitutional question. I mention it only to reiterate that the Johnson case represents the law and is in no way eroded by what we fail to decide today.
MR. JUSTICE CLARK, with whom MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, MR. JUSTICE STEWART and MR. JUSTICE WHITE join. dissenting.
The Court has made a Chinese puzzle out of this simple case involving four participants: Hom Way, Blackie Toy, Johnny Yee and "Sea Dog" Sun. In setting aside the convictions of Toy and Sun it has dashed to pieces the heretofore recognized standards of probable cause necessary to secure an arrest warrant or to make an arrest without one. Instead of dealing with probable cause as involving "probabilities," "the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act," Brinegar v. United States,
The first character in this affair is Hom Way, who was arrested in possession of narcotics and told the officers early that morning that he had purchased an ounce of heroin on the previous night from Blackie Toy, who operated a laundry on Leavenworth Street. Narcotics agents, armed with this information from a person they had known for six weeks and who was under arrest for possession of narcotics, immediately sought out Blackie Toy, the second character. The laundry was located without difficulty (as far as the record shows) from the information furnished by Hom Way. The Court gratuitously reads into the record its supposition that Hom Way "merely invited the officers to roam the length of Leavenworth Street (some 30 blocks) in search of one `Blackie Toy's' laundry . . . ." On the contrary, the identification of "Blackie" and the directions to his laundry were sufficiently accurate for the officers—two of whom were of Chinese ancestry—to find Blackie at his laundry within an hour. I cannot say in the face of this record that this was a "roaming" performance
There are other indicia of reliability, however. Here the informer, believed by the officers to be reliable,
But even assuming there was no probable cause at this point, the Government produced additional evidence to support the lawfulness of Blackie's arrest. In broad daylight, about 6:30 on the same morning that Hom Way was arrested, one of the officers of Chinese ancestry, Agent Alton Wong, knocked on Blackie Toy's laundry door. When Wong told him that he wanted laundry, Blackie
This Court has often held unexplained flight—as here— from an officer to be strong evidence of guilt. E. g., Husty v. United States,
The Court places entire reliance on the decision in Miller. I submit that it is inapposite. That case involved interpretation of the law of the District of Columbia. Id., at 306. The arrest was at night, and the door was broken in just as the defendant began to close it. Thus there was no flight but only what the officer believed to be an attempt to bar their entrance. The only identification given by the officers occurred before the defendant opened the door, when "in a low voice" through the closed door they answered the defendant's query as to who was there by saying, "Police." Id., at 303. The facts in Miller differ significantly from this case both in the clarity of identification by the officers and in the character and extent of the defendant's conduct. For that reason, the conclusions that Blackie's flight is evidence to support probable cause and that the officers gave sufficient notice to permit lawful entry are supported rather than weakened by the Court's decision in Miller.
The information from Hom Way and Blackie Toy's unexplained flight cannot be viewed "in two separate. logic-tight compartments. . . . [T]ogether they composed
As to "Sea Dog," Wong Sun, there is no disagreement that his confession and the narcotics found in Yee's possession were admissible in evidence against him. The question remains as to whether there was sufficient independent evidence to corroborate the confession. Such evidence "does not have to prove the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, or even by a preponderance . . . ." Smith v. United States,
The Court does not reach a contrary conclusion as to corroboration, but it grants Wong Sun a new trial on the ground that the trial court "may" also "have considered the contents of Toy's statement as a source of corroboration" of it. This point was not raised as a question here nor was it discussed in the briefs. Despite this the Court goes to some lengths to develop a chain of inferences in finding prejudicial error. This might be plausible where the case was tried to a jury, as were all the cases cited by the Court. Indeed, I find no case where such presumption of error was applied, as here, to a trial before a judge. The Court admits that the heroin found in Johnny Yee's possession might itself be sufficient corroboration, but it reverses on the excuse that the judge "may" have considered Toy's confession as well. I see no reason for this assumption where a federal judge is the trier of the fact, and I would therefore affirm the judgment as to both petitioners.
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