NIX v. WILLIAMS No. 82-1651.
467 U.S. 431 (1984)
NIX, WARDEN OF THE IOWA STATE PENITENTIARY v. WILLIAMS
Supreme Court of United States.
Decided June 11, 1984
Brent R. Appel, Deputy Attorney General of Iowa, argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Thomas D. McGrane, Assistant Attorney General.
Kathryn A. Oberly argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal. With her on the brief were Solicitor General Lee, Assistant Attorney General Trott, Deputy Solicitor General Frey, and Joel M. Gershowitz.
Robert Bartels, by appointment of the Court, 462 U.S. 1129, argued the cause and filed briefs for respondent. *
amici curiae were filed for the State of Illinois et al. by Neil F. Hartigan, Attorney General of Illinois, Paul P. Biebel, Jr., First Assistant Attorney General, Steven F. Molo, Assistant Attorney General, and by the Attorneys General for their respective jurisdictions as follows: Charles A. Graddick of Alabama, Norman C. Gorsuch of Alaska, Robert K. Corbin of Arizona, Duane Woodard of Colorado, Charles M. Oberly III of Delaware, Jim Smith of Florida, Michael J. Bowers of Georgia, Tany S. Hong of Hawaii, Jim Jones of Idaho, Linley E. Pearson of Indiana, Robert T. Stephan of Kansas, Steven L. Beshear of Kentucky, William J. Guste, Jr., of Louisiana, James E. Tierney of Maine, Stephen H. Sachs of Maryland, Frank J. Kelley of Michigan, Hubert H. Humphrey III of Minnesota, William A. Allain of Mississippi, Michael T. Greely of Montana, Paul L. Douglas of Nebraska, Brian McKay of Nevada, Gregory H. Smith of New Hampshire, Rufus L. Edmisten of North Carolina, Robert Wefald of North Dakota, Michael Turpen of Oklahoma, LeRoy S. Zimmerman of Pennsylvania, Hector Reichard of Puerto Rico, Travis Medlock of South Carolina, Mark V. Meierhenry of South Dakota, William M. Leech, Jr., of Tennessee, David L. Wilkinson of Utah, John J. Easton of Vermont, Gerald L. Baliles of Virginia, Kenneth O. Eikenberry of Washington, Chauncey H. Browning of West Virginia, Bronson C. La Follette of Wisconsin, and Archie G. McClintock of Wyoming; and for the Legal Foundation of America et al. by David Crump, Wayne Schmidt, and James P. Manak.
We granted certiorari to consider whether, at respondent Williams' second murder trial in state court, evidence pertaining to the discovery and condition of the victim's body was properly admitted on the ground that it would ultimately or inevitably have been discovered even if no violation of any constitutional or statutory provision had taken place.
On December 24, 1968, 10-year-old Pamela Powers disappeared from a YMCA building in Des Moines, Iowa, where she had accompanied her parents to watch an athletic contest. Shortly after she disappeared, Williams was seen leaving the YMCA carrying a large bundle wrapped in a blanket; a 14-year-old boy who had helped Williams open his car door reported that he had seen "two legs in it and they were skinny and white."
Williams' car was found the next day 160 miles east of Des Moines in Davenport, Iowa. Later several items of clothing belonging to the child, some of Williams' clothing, and an army blanket like the one used to wrap the bundle that Williams carried out of the YMCA were found at a rest stop on
Police surmised that Williams had left Pamela Powers or her body somewhere between Des Moines and the Grinnell rest stop where some of the young girl's clothing had been found. On December 26, the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation initiated a large-scale search. Two hundred volunteers divided into teams began the search 21 miles east of Grinnell, covering an area several miles to the north and south of Interstate 80. They moved westward from Poweshiek County, in which Grinnell was located, into Jasper County. Searchers were instructed to check all roads, abandoned farm buildings, ditches, culverts, and any other place in which the body of a small child could be hidden.
Meanwhile, Williams surrendered to local police in Davenport, where he was promptly arraigned. Williams contacted a Des Moines attorney who arranged for an attorney in Davenport to meet Williams at the Davenport police station. Des Moines police informed counsel they would pick Williams up in Davenport and return him to Des Moines without questioning him. Two Des Moines detectives then drove to Davenport, took Williams into custody, and proceeded to drive him back to Des Moines.
During the return trip, one of the policemen, Detective Leaming, began a conversation with Williams, saying:
Leaming told Williams he knew the body was in the area of Mitchellville — a town they would be passing on the way to Des Moines. He concluded the conversation by saying: "I do not want you to answer me. . . . Just think about it . . . ."
Later, as the police car approached Grinnell, Williams asked Leaming whether the police had found the young girl's shoes. After Leaming replied that he was unsure, Williams directed the police to a point near a service station where he said he had left the shoes; they were not found. As they continued the drive to Des Moines, Williams asked whether the blanket had been found and then directed the officers to a rest area in Grinnell where he said he had disposed of the blanket; they did not find the blanket. At this point Leaming and his party were joined by the officers in charge of the search. As they approached Mitchellville, Williams, without any further conversation, agreed to direct the officers to the child's body.
The officers directing the search had called off the search at 3 p. m., when they left the Grinnell Police Department to join Leaming at the rest area. At that time, one search team near the Jasper County-Polk County line was only two and one-half miles from where Williams soon guided Leaming and his party to the body. The child's body was found next to a culvert in a ditch beside a gravel road in Polk County, about two miles south of Interstate 80, and essentially within the area to be searched.
In February 1969 Williams was indicted for first-degree murder. Before trial in the Iowa court, his counsel moved to suppress evidence of the body and all related evidence including the condition of the body as shown by the autopsy. The ground for the motion was that such evidence was the "fruit"
The jury found Williams guilty of first-degree murder; the judgment of conviction was affirmed by the Iowa Supreme Court. State v. Williams, 182 N.W.2d 396 (1970). Williams then sought release on habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. That court concluded that the evidence in question had been wrongly admitted at Williams' trial, Williams v. Brewer, 375 F.Supp. 170 (1974); a divided panel of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit agreed. 509 F.2d 227 (1974).
We granted certiorari, 423 U.S. 1031 (1975), and a divided Court affirmed, holding that Detective Leaming had obtained incriminating statements from Williams by what was viewed as interrogation in violation of his right to counsel. Brewer v. Williams, 430 U.S. 387 (1977). This Court's opinion noted, however, that although Williams' incriminating statements could not be introduced into evidence at a second trial, evidence of the body's location and condition "might well be admissible on the theory that the body would have been discovered in any event, even had incriminating statements not been elicited from Williams." Id., at 407, n. 12.
At Williams' second trial in 1977 in the Iowa court, the prosecution did not offer Williams' statements into evidence, nor did it seek to show that Williams had directed the police to the child's body. However, evidence of the condition of her body as it was found, articles and photographs of her clothing, and the results of post mortem medical and chemical tests on the body were admitted. The trial court concluded that the State had proved by a preponderance of the evidence that, if the search had not been suspended and Williams had not led the police to the victim, her body would have been
In finding that the body would have been discovered in essentially the same condition as it was actually found, the court noted that freezing temperatures had prevailed and tissue deterioration would have been suspended. Id., at 87. The challenged evidence was admitted and the jury again found Williams guilty of first-degree murder; he was sentenced to life in prison.
On appeal, the Supreme Court of Iowa again affirmed. 285 N.W.2d 248 (1979). That court held that there was in fact a "hypothetical independent source" exception to the exclusionary rule:
As to the first element, the Iowa Supreme Court, having reviewed the relevant cases, stated:
In 1980 Williams renewed his attack on the state-court conviction by seeking a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. The District Court conducted its own independent review of the evidence and concluded, as had the state courts, that the body would inevitably have been found by the searchers in essentially the same condition it was in when Williams led police to its discovery. The District Court denied Williams' petition. 528 F.Supp. 664 (1981).
The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed, 700 F.2d 1164 (1983); an equally divided court denied rehearing en banc. Id., at 1175. That court assumed, without deciding, that there is an inevitable discovery exception to the exclusionary rule and that the Iowa Supreme Court correctly stated that exception to require proof that the police did not act in bad faith and that the evidence would have been discovered absent any constitutional violation. In reversing the District Court's denial of habeas relief, the Court of Appeals stated:
We granted the State's petition for certiorari, 461 U.S. 956 (1983), and we reverse.
The Iowa Supreme Court correctly stated that the "vast majority" of all courts, both state and federal, recognize an inevitable discovery exception to the exclusionary rule.
Williams contends that evidence of the body's location and condition is "fruit of the poisonous tree," i. e., the "fruit" or product of Detective Leaming's plea to help the child's parents give her "a Christian burial," which this Court had already held equated to interrogation. He contends that admitting the challenged evidence violated the Sixth Amendment whether it would have been inevitably discovered or not. Williams also contends that, if the inevitable discovery doctrine is constitutionally permissible, it must include a threshold showing of police good faith.
The doctrine requiring courts to suppress evidence as the tainted "fruit" of unlawful governmental conduct had its genesis in Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U.S. 385 (1920); there, the Court held that the exclusionary rule applies not only to the illegally obtained evidence itself, but also to other incriminating evidence derived from the primary evidence. The holding of Silverthorne was carefully limited, however, for the Court emphasized that such information does not automatically become "sacred and inaccessible." Id., at 392.
Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471 (1963), extended the exclusionary rule to evidence that was the indirect product or "fruit" of unlawful police conduct, but there again the Court emphasized that evidence that has been illegally obtained need not always be suppressed, stating:
The Court thus pointedly negated the kind of good-faith requirement advanced by the Court of Appeals in reversing the District Court.
Although Silverthorne and Wong Sun involved violations of the Fourth Amendment, the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine has not been limited to cases in which there has been a Fourth Amendment violation. The Court has applied the doctrine where the violations were of the Sixth Amendment, see United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218 (1967), as well as of the Fifth Amendment.
The core rationale consistently advanced by this Court for extending the exclusionary rule to evidence that is the fruit of unlawful police conduct has been that this admittedly drastic and socially costly course is needed to deter police from
By contrast, the derivative evidence analysis ensures that the prosecution is not put in a worse position simply because of some earlier police error or misconduct. The independent source doctrine allows admission of evidence that has been discovered by means wholly independent of any constitutional violation. That doctrine, although closely related to the inevitable discovery doctrine, does not apply here; Williams' statements to Leaming indeed led police to the child's body, but that is not the whole story. The independent source doctrine teaches us that the interest of society in deterring unlawful police conduct and the public interest in having juries receive all probative evidence of a crime are properly balanced by putting the police in the same, not a worse, position that they would have been in if no police error or misconduct had occurred.
It is clear that the cases implementing the exclusionary rule "begin with the premise that the challenged evidence is in some sense the product of illegal governmental activity." United States v. Crews, 445 U.S. 463, 471 (1980) (emphasis added). Of course, this does not end the inquiry. If the prosecution can establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the information ultimately or inevitably would have been discovered by lawful means — here the volunteers' search — then the deterrence rationale has so little basis that the evidence should be received.
The Court of Appeals concluded, without analysis, that if an absence-of-bad-faith requirement were not imposed, "the temptation to risk deliberate violations of the Sixth Amendment would be too great, and the deterrent effect of the Exclusionary Rule reduced too far." 700 F. 2d, at 1169, n. 5. We reject that view. A police officer who is faced with the opportunity to obtain evidence illegally will rarely, if ever, be in a position to calculate whether the evidence sought would inevitably be discovered. Cf. United States v. Ceccolini, 435 U.S. 268, 283 (1978):
On the other hand, when an officer is aware that the evidence will inevitably be discovered, he will try to avoid engaging in
Williams contends that because he did not waive his right to the assistance of counsel, the Court may not balance competing values in deciding whether the challenged evidence was properly admitted. He argues that, unlike the exclusionary rule in the Fourth Amendment context, the essential purpose of which is to deter police misconduct, the Sixth Amendment exclusionary rule is designed to protect the right to a fair trial and the integrity of the factfinding process. Williams contends that, when those interests are at stake, the societal costs of excluding evidence obtained from responses presumed involuntary are irrelevant in determining whether such evidence should be excluded. We disagree.
Exclusion of physical evidence that would inevitably have been discovered adds nothing to either the integrity or fairness of a criminal trial. The Sixth Amendment right to counsel protects against unfairness by preserving the adversary process in which the reliability of proffered evidence may be tested in cross-examination. See United States v. Ash, 413 U.S. 300, 314 (1973); Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 241 (1973). Here, however, Detective Leaming's conduct did nothing to impugn the reliability of the evidence in question — the body of the child and its condition as it was found, articles of clothing found on the body, and the autopsy. No one would seriously contend that the presence of counsel in the police car when Leaming appealed to Williams'
Nor would suppression ensure fairness on the theory that it tends to safeguard the adversary system of justice. To assure the fairness of trial proceedings, this Court has held that assistance of counsel must be available at pretrial confrontations where "the subsequent trial [cannot] cure a[n otherwise] one-sided confrontation between prosecuting authorities and the uncounseled defendant." United States v. Ash, supra, at 315. Fairness can be assured by placing the State and the accused in the same positions they would have been in had the impermissible conduct not taken place. However, if the government can prove that the evidence would have been obtained inevitably and, therefore, would have been admitted regardless of any overreaching by the police, there is no rational basis to keep that evidence from the jury in order to ensure the fairness of the trial proceedings. In that situation, the State has gained no advantage at trial and the defendant has suffered no prejudice. Indeed, suppression of the evidence would operate to undermine the adversary system by putting the State in a worse position than it would have occupied without any police misconduct. Williams' argument that inevitable discovery constitutes impermissible balancing of values is without merit.
More than a half century ago, Judge, later Justice, Cardozo made his seminal observation that under the exclusionary rule "[t]he criminal is to go free because the constable has blundered." People v. Defore, 242 N.Y. 13, 21, 150 N. E. 585, 587 (1926). Prophetically, he went on to consider "how far-reaching in its effect upon society" the exclusionary rule would be when
Some day, Cardozo speculated, some court might press the exclusionary rule to the outer limits of its logic — or beyond — and suppress evidence relating to the "body of a murdered" victim because of the means by which it was found. Id., at 23-24, 150 N. E., at 588. Cardozo's prophecy was fulfilled in Killough v. United States, 114 U. S. App. D. C. 305, 309, 315 F.2d 241, 245 (1962) (en banc). But when, as here, the evidence in question would inevitably have been discovered without reference to the police error or misconduct, there is no nexus sufficient to provide a taint and the evidence is admissible.
The Court of Appeals did not find it necessary to consider whether the record fairly supported the finding that the volunteer search party would ultimately or inevitably have discovered the victim's body. However, three courts independently reviewing the evidence have found that the body of the child inevitably would have been found by the searchers. Williams challenges these findings, asserting that the record contains only the "post hoc rationalization" that the search efforts would have proceeded two and one-half miles into Polk County where Williams had led police to the body.
When that challenge was made at the suppression hearing preceding Williams' second trial, the prosecution offered the testimony of Agent Ruxlow of the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Ruxlow had organized and directed some 200 volunteers who were searching for the child's body. Tr. of Hearings on Motion to Suppress in State v. Williams, No. CR 55805, p. 34 (May 31, 1977). The searchers were instructed "to check all the roads, the ditches, any culverts. . . . If they came upon any abandoned farm buildings, they were instructed to go onto the property and search those abandoned farm buildings or any other places where a
The search had commenced at approximately 10 a. m. and moved westward through Poweshiek County into Jasper County. At approximately 3 p. m., after Williams had volunteered to cooperate with the police, Detective Leaming, who was in the police car with Williams, sent word to Ruxlow and the other Special Agent directing the search to meet him at the Grinnell truck stop and the search was suspended at that time. Id., at 51-52. Ruxlow also stated that he was "under the impression that there was a possibility" that Williams would lead them to the child's body at that time. Id., at 61. The search was not resumed once it was learned that Williams had led the police to the body, id., at 57, which was found two and one-half miles from where the search had stopped in what would have been the easternmost grid to be searched in Polk County, id., at 39. There was testimony that it would have taken an additional three to five hours to discover the body if the search had continued, id., at 41; the body was found near a culvert, one of the kinds of places the teams had been specifically directed to search.
On this record it is clear that the search parties were approaching the actual location of the body, and we are satisfied, along with three courts earlier, that the volunteer search teams would have resumed the search had Williams
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE WHITE, concurring.
I join fully in the opinion of the Court. I write separately only to point out that many of Justice Stevens' remarks are beside the point when it is recalled that Brewer v. Williams, 430 U.S. 387 (1977), was a 5-4 decision and that four Members of the Court, including myself, were of the view that Detective Leaming had done nothing wrong at all, let alone anything unconstitutional. Three of us observed: "To anyone not lost in the intricacies of the prophylactic
JUSTICE STEVENS, concurring in the judgment.
This litigation is exceptional for at least three reasons. The facts are unusually tragic; it involves an unusually clear violation of constitutional rights; and it graphically illustrates the societal costs that may be incurred when police officers decide to dispense with the requirements of law. Because the Court does not adequately discuss any of these aspects of the case, I am unable to join its opinion.
In holding that respondent's first conviction had been unconstitutionally obtained, Justice Stewart, writing for the Court, correctly observed:
There can be no denying that the character of the crime may have an impact on the decisional process. As the Court
The constitutional violation that gave rise to the decision in Williams I is neither acknowledged nor fairly explained in the Court's opinion. Yet the propriety of admitting evidence relating to the victim's body can only be evaluated if that constitutional violation is properly identified.
Before he was taken into custody, Williams, as a recent escapee from a mental hospital who had just abducted and murdered a small child, posed a special threat to public safety. Acting on his lawyer's advice, Williams surrendered to the Davenport police. The lawyer notified the Des Moines police of Williams' imminent surrender, and police officials,
The Sixth Amendment guarantees that the conviction of the accused will be the product of an adversarial process, rather than the ex parte investigation and determination by the prosecutor.
Spano v. New York, 360 U.S. 315 (1959), dealt with the confession of an uncounseled defendant after prolonged interrogation subsequent to his indictment for first-degree
As Justice Douglas asked: "[W]hat use is a defendant's right to effective counsel at every stage of a criminal case if, while he is held awaiting trial, he can be questioned in the absence of counsel until he confesses? In that event the secret trial in the police precincts effectively supplants the public trial guaranteed by the Bill of Rights." Id., at 326 (Douglas, J., concurring, joined by Black and BRENNAN, JJ.).
This view ripened into a holding in Massiah v. United States, 377 U.S. 201 (1964): "We hold that the petitioner was denied the basic protections of [the Sixth Amendment] when there was used against him at his trial evidence of his own incriminating words, which federal agents had deliberately elicited from him after he had been indicted and in the absence of his counsel." Id., at 206. Williams I held that Detective Leaming had violated "the clear rule of Massiah" by deliberately eliciting incriminating statements from respondent during the pendency of the adversarial process and outside of that process. See 430 U. S., at 399-401. The violation was aggravated by the fact that Detective Leaming had breached a promise to counsel, an act which can only undermine the role of counsel in the adversarial process.
Once the constitutional violation is properly identified, the answers to the questions presented in this case follow readily. Admission of the victim's body, if it would have been discovered anyway, means that the trial in this case was not the product of an inquisitorial process; that process was untainted by illegality. The good or bad faith of Detective Leaming is therefore simply irrelevant. If the trial process was not tainted as a result of his conduct, this defendant received the type of trial that the Sixth Amendment envisions. See United States v. Morrison, 449 U.S. 361 (1981); Weatherford v. Bursey, 429 U.S. 545 (1977); United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218, 240-243 (1967). Generalizations about the exclusionary rule employed by the majority, see ante, at 443-448, simply do not address the primary question in the case.
The majority is correct to insist that any rule of exclusion not provide the authorities with an incentive to commit violations of the Constitution. Ante, at 445-446. If the inevitable discovery rule provided such an incentive by permitting the prosecution to avoid the uncertainties inherent in its search for evidence, it would undermine the constitutional guarantee itself, and therefore be inconsistent with the deterrent purposes of the exclusionary rule.
The majority refers to the "societal cost" of excluding probative evidence. Ante, at 445. In my view, the more relevant cost is that imposed on society by police officers who decide to take procedural shortcuts instead of complying with the law. What is the consequence of the shortcut that Detective Leaming took when he decided to question Williams in this case and not to wait an hour or so until he arrived in
Accordingly, I concur in the Court's judgment.
JUSTICE BRENNAN, with whom JUSTICE MARSHALL joins, dissenting.
In Brewer v. Williams, 430 U.S. 387 (1977), we held that the respondent's state conviction for first-degree murder had to be set aside because it was based in part on statements obtained from the respondent in violation of his right to the assistance of counsel guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. At the same time, we noted that, "[w]hile neither Williams' incriminating statements themselves nor any testimony describing his having led the police to the victim's body can constitutionally be admitted into evidence, evidence of where the body was found and of its condition might well be admissible on the theory that the body would have been discovered in any event." Id., at 407, n. 12.
To the extent that today's decision adopts this "inevitable discovery" exception to the exclusionary rule, it simply acknowledges a doctrine that is akin to the "independent source" exception first recognized by the Court in Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U.S. 385, 392 (1920). See United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218, 242 (1967);
In its zealous efforts to emasculate the exclusionary rule, however, the Court loses sight of the crucial difference between the "inevitable discovery" doctrine and the "independent source" exception from which it is derived. When properly applied, the "independent source" exception allows the prosecution to use evidence only if it was, in fact, obtained by fully lawful means. It therefore does no violence to the constitutional protections that the exclusionary rule is meant to enforce. The "inevitable discovery" exception is likewise compatible with the Constitution, though it differs in one key respect from its next of kin: specifically, the evidence sought to be introduced at trial has not actually been obtained from an independent source, but rather would have been discovered as a matter of course if independent investigations were allowed to proceed.
In my view, this distinction should require that the government satisfy a heightened burden of proof before it is allowed to use such evidence. The inevitable discovery exception necessarily implicates a hypothetical finding that differs in kind from the factual finding that precedes application of the independent source rule. To ensure that this hypothetical finding is narrowly confined to circumstances that are functionally equivalent to an independent source, and to protect fully the fundamental rights served by the exclusionary rule, I would require clear and convincing evidence before concluding that the government had met its burden of proof on this issue. See Wade, supra, at 240. Increasing the burden of
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