CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.
Respondent Larry Youngblood was convicted by a Pima County, Arizona, jury of child molestation, sexual assault, and kidnaping. The Arizona Court of Appeals reversed his conviction on the ground that the State had failed to preserve semen samples from the victim's body and clothing. 153 Ariz. 50, 734 P.2d 592 (1986). We granted certiorari to consider the extent to which the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires the State to preserve evidentiary material that might be useful to a criminal defendant.
On October 29, 1983, David L., a 10-year-old boy, attended a church service with his mother. After he left the service at about 9:30 p.m., the boy went to a carnival behind the church, where he was abducted by a middle-aged man of medium height and weight. The assailant drove the boy to a secluded area near a ravine and molested him. He then took the boy to an unidentified, sparsely furnished house where he sodomized the boy four times. Afterwards, the assailant tied the boy up while he went outside to start his car. Once the assailant started the car, albeit with some difficulty, he returned to the house and again sodomized the boy. The assailant then sent the boy to the bathroom to wash up before he returned him to the carnival. He threatened to kill the boy if he told anyone about the attack. The entire ordeal lasted about 1 1/2 hours.
After the boy made his way home, his mother took him to Kino Hospital. At the hospital, a physician treated the boy for rectal injuries. The physician also used a "sexual assault kit" to collect evidence of the attack. The Tucson Police Department
Nine days after the attack, on November 7, 1983, the police asked the boy to pick out his assailant from a photographic lineup. The boy identified respondent as the assailant. Respondent was not located by the police until four weeks later; he was arrested on December 9, 1983.
On November 8, 1983, Edward Heller, a police criminologist, examined the sexual assault kit. He testified that he followed standard department procedure, which was to examine the slides and determine whether sexual contact had occurred. After he determined that such contact had occurred, the criminologist did not perform any other tests, although he placed the assault kit back in the refrigerator. He testified that tests to identify blood group substances were not routinely conducted during the initial examination of an assault kit and in only about half of all cases in any event. He did not test the clothing at this time.
Respondent was indicted on charges of child molestation, sexual assault, and kidnaping. The State moved to compel respondent to provide blood and saliva samples for comparison with the material gathered through the use of the sexual assault kit, but the trial court denied the motion on the
In January 1985, the police criminologist examined the boy's clothing for the first time. He found one semen stain on the boy's underwear and another on the rear of his T-shirt. The criminologist tried to obtain blood group substances from both stains using the ABO technique, but was unsuccessful. He also performed a P-30 protein molecule test on the stains, which indicated that only a small quantity of semen was present on the clothing; it was inconclusive as to the assailant's identity. The Tucson Police Department had just begun using this test, which was then used in slightly more than half of the crime laboratories in the country.
Respondent's principal defense at trial was that the boy had erred in identifying him as the perpetrator of the crime. In this connection, both a criminologist for the State and an expert witness for respondent testified as to what might have been shown by tests performed on the samples shortly after they were gathered, or by later tests performed on the samples from the boy's clothing had the clothing been properly refrigerated. The court instructed the jury that if they found the State had destroyed or lost evidence, they might "infer that the true fact is against the State's interest." 10 Tr. 90.
The jury found respondent guilty as charged, but the Arizona Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of conviction. It stated that " `when identity is an issue at trial and the police permit the destruction of evidence that could eliminate the defendant as the perpetrator, such loss is material to the defense and is a denial of due process.' " 153 Ariz., at 54, 734 P. 2d, at 596, quoting State v. Escalante, 153 Ariz. 55, 61, 734 P.2d 597, 603 (App. 1986). The Court of Appeals
Decision of this case requires us to again consider "what might loosely be called the area of constitutionally guaranteed access to evidence." United States v. Valenzuela-Bernal, 458 U.S. 858, 867 (1982). In Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), we held that "the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to the accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution." Id., at 87. In United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97 (1976), we held that the prosecution had a duty to disclose some evidence of this description even though no requests were made for it, but at the same time we rejected the notion that a "prosecutor has a constitutional duty routinely to deliver his entire file to defense counsel." Id., at 111; see also Moore v. Illinois, 408 U.S. 786, 795 (1972) ("We know of no constitutional requirement that the prosecution make a complete and detailed accounting to the defense of all police investigatory work on a case").
There is no question but that the State complied with Brady and Agurs here. The State disclosed relevant police reports to respondent, which contained information about the existence of the swab and the clothing, and the boy's examination at the hospital. The State provided respondent's expert with the laboratory reports and notes prepared by the police criminologist, and respondent's expert had access to the swab and to the clothing.
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as interpreted in Brady, makes the good or bad faith of the State irrelevant when the State fails to disclose to the defendant material exculpatory evidence. But we think the Due Process Clause requires a different result when we deal with the failure of the State to preserve evidentiary material of which no more can be said than that it could have been subjected to tests, the results of which might have exonerated the defendant. Part of the reason for the difference in treatment is found in the observation made by the Court in Trombetta, supra, at 486, that "[w]henever potentially exculpatory
In this case, the police collected the rectal swab and clothing on the night of the crime; respondent was not taken into custody until six weeks later. The failure of the police to refrigerate the clothing and to perform tests on the semen samples can at worst be described as negligent. None of this information was concealed from respondent at trial, and the evidence — such as it was — was made available to respondent's expert who declined to perform any tests on the samples. The Arizona Court of Appeals noted in its opinion — and we agree — that there was no suggestion of bad faith on the part of the police. It follows, therefore, from what we have said, that there was no violation of the Due Process Clause.
The Arizona Court of Appeals also referred somewhat obliquely to the State's "inability to quantitatively test" certain semen samples with the newer P-30 test. 153 Ariz., at 54, 734 P. 2d, at 596. If the court meant by this statement
The judgment of the Arizona Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
JUSTICE STEVENS, concurring in the judgment.
Three factors are of critical importance to my evaluation of this case. First, at the time the police failed to refrigerate the victim's clothing, and thus negligently lost potentially valuable evidence, they had at least as great an interest in preserving the evidence as did the person later accused of the crime. Indeed, at that time it was more likely that the evidence would have been useful to the police — who were still conducting an investigation — and to the prosecutor — who would later bear the burden of establishing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt — than to the defendant. In cases such as this, even without a prophylactic sanction such as dismissal of the indictment, the State has a strong incentive to preserve the evidence.
Second, although it is not possible to know whether the lost evidence would have revealed any relevant information, it is unlikely that the defendant was prejudiced by the State's omission. In examining witnesses and in her summation, defense counsel impressed upon the jury the fact that the State failed to preserve the evidence and that the State could have conducted tests that might well have exonerated the defendant. See App. to Pet. for Cert. C21-C38, C42-C45; 9 Tr. 183-202, 207-208; 10 Tr. 58-61, 69-70. More significantly, the trial judge instructed the jury: "If you find that the State has . . . allowed to be destroyed or lost any evidence whose
Third, the fact that no juror chose to draw the permissive inference that proper preservation of the evidence would have demonstrated that the defendant was not the assailant suggests that the lost evidence was "immaterial." Our cases make clear that "[t]he proper standard of materiality must reflect our overriding concern with the justice of the finding of guilt," and that a State's failure to turn over (or preserve) potentially exculpatory evidence therefore "must be evaluated in the context of the entire record." United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97, 112 (1976) (footnotes omitted); see also California v. Trombetta, 467 U.S. 479, 488 (1984) (duty to preserve evidence "must be limited to evidence that might be expected to play a significant role in the suspect's defense"). In declining defense counsel's and the court's invitations to draw the permissive inference, the jurors in effect indicated that, in their view, the other evidence at trial was so overwhelming that it was highly improbable that the lost evidence was exculpatory. In Trombetta, this Court found no due process violation because "the chances [were] extremely low that preserved [breath] samples would have been exculpatory." Id., at 489. In this case, the jury has already performed this calculus based on its understanding of the evidence introduced at trial. Presumably, in a case involving a closer question as to guilt or innocence, the jurors would have been more ready to infer that the lost evidence was exculpatory.
With these factors in mind, I concur in the Court's judgment. I do not, however, join the Court's opinion because it announces a proposition of law that is much broader than necessary to decide this case. It states that "unless a criminal defendant can show bad faith on the part of the police, failure to preserve potentially useful evidence does not constitute a
JUSTICE BLACKMUN, with whom JUSTICE BRENNAN and JUSTICE MARSHALL join, dissenting.
The Constitution requires that criminal defendants be provided with a fair trial, not merely a "good faith" try at a fair trial. Respondent here, by what may have been nothing more than police ineptitude, was denied the opportunity to present a full defense. That ineptitude, however, deprived respondent of his guaranteed right to due process of law. In reversing the judgment of the Arizona Court of Appeals, this Court, in my view, misreads the import of its prior cases and unduly restricts the protections of the Due Process Clause. An understanding of due process demonstrates that the evidence which was allowed to deteriorate was "constitutionally material," and that its absence significantly prejudiced respondent. Accordingly, I dissent.
The Court, with minimal reference to our past cases and with what seems to me to be less than complete analysis, announces that "unless a criminal defendant can show bad faith on the part of police, failure to preserve potentially useful evidence does not constitute a denial of due process of law." Ante, at 58. This conclusion is claimed to be justified because it limits the extent of police responsibility "to that class of cases where the interests of justice most clearly require it, i. e., those cases in which the police themselves by their conduct indicate that the evidence could form a basis for exonerating the defendant." Ibid. The majority has identified clearly one type of violation, for police action affirmatively
The Court's most recent pronouncement in "what might loosely be called the area of constitutionally guaranteed access to evidence," United States v. Valenzuela-Bernal, 458 U.S. 858, 867 (1982), is in California v. Trombetta, 467 U.S. 479 (1984). Trombetta addressed "the question whether the Amendment . . . demands that the State preserve potentially exculpatory evidence on behalf of defendants." Id., at 481. JUSTICE MARSHALL, writing for the Court, noted that while the particular question was one of first impression, the general standards to be applied had been developed in a number of cases, including Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97 (1976).
As noted by the majority, ante, at 55, the Court in Brady ruled that "the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution." 373 U. S., at 87. The Brady Court went on to explain that the principle underlying earlier cases, e. g., Mooney v. Holohan, 294 U.S. 103 (1935) (violation of due process when prosecutor presented perjured testimony), is "not punishment of society for misdeeds of a prosecutor but avoidance of an unfair trial to the accused." 373 U. S., at 87. The failure to turn over material evidence "casts the prosecutor in the role of an architect of a proceeding that does not comport with standards of justice, even though, as in the present case, his action is not `the result of guile.' " Id., at 88 (quoting lower court opinion).
In Trombetta, the Court also relied on United States v. Agurs, 427 U. S., at 107, which required a prosecutor to turn over to the defense evidence that was "clearly supportive of a claim of innocence" even without a defense request. The Court noted that the prosecutor's duty was not one of constitutional dimension unless the evidence was such that its "omission deprived the defendant of a fair trial," id., at 108, and explained:
Agurs thus made plain that the prosecutor's state of mind is not determinative. Rather, the proper standard must focus on the materiality of the evidence, and that standard "must reflect our overriding concern with the justice of the finding of guilt." Id., at 112.
Brady and Agurs could not be more clear in their holdings that a prosecutor's bad faith in interfering with a defendant's access to material evidence is not an essential part of a due process violation. Nor did Trombetta create such a requirement. Trombetta's initial discussion focused on the due process requirement "that criminal defendants be afforded a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense," 467 U. S., at 485, and then noted that the delivery of exculpatory evidence to the defendant "protect[s] the innocent from erroneous
Second, and more importantly, Trombetta demonstrates that the absence of bad faith does not end the analysis. The determination in Trombetta that the prosecution acted in good faith and according to normal practice merely prefaced the primary inquiry, which centers on the "constitutional materiality" of the evidence itself. 467 U. S., at 489. There is
The cases in this area clearly establish that police actions taken in bad faith are not the only species of police conduct that can result in a violation of due process. As Agurs points out, it makes no sense to overturn a conviction because a malicious prosecutor withholds information that he mistakenly believes to be material, but which actually would have been of no help to the defense. 427 U. S., at 110. In the same way, it makes no sense to ignore the fact that a defendant has been denied a fair trial because the State allowed evidence that was material to the defense to deteriorate beyond the point of usefulness, simply because the police were inept rather than malicious.
I also doubt that the "bad faith" standard creates the bright-line rule sought by the majority. Apart from the inherent difficulty a defendant would have in obtaining evidence to show a lack of good faith, the line between "good faith" and "bad faith" is anything but bright, and the majority's formulation may well create more questions than it answers. What constitutes bad faith for these purposes? Does a defendant have to show actual malice, or would recklessness, or the deliberate failure to establish standards for maintaining and preserving evidence, be sufficient? Does "good faith police work" require a certain minimum of diligence, or will a lazy officer, who does not walk the few extra steps to the evidence refrigerator, be considered to be acting in good faith? While the majority leaves these questions for
The inquiry the majority eliminates in setting up its "bad faith" rule is whether the evidence in question here was "constitutionally material," so that its destruction violates due process. The majority does not say whether "evidentiary material of which no more can be said than that it could have been subjected to tests, the results of which might have exonerated the defendant," ante, at 57, is, for purposes of due process, material. But because I do not find the question of lack of bad faith dispositive, I now consider whether this evidence was such that its destruction rendered respondent's trial fundamentally unfair.
Trombetta requires that a court determine whether the evidence possesses "an exculpatory value that was apparent before the evidence was destroyed," and whether it was "of such a nature that the defendant would be unable to obtain comparable evidence by other reasonably available means." 467 U. S., at 489. In Trombetta neither requirement was met. But it is important to note that the facts of Trombetta differed significantly from those of this case. As such, while the basic standards set by Trombetta are controlling, the inquiry here must be more finely tuned.
In Trombetta, samples of breath taken from suspected drunk drivers had been discarded after police had tested them using an Intoxilyzer, a highly accurate and reliable device for measuring blood-alcohol concentration levels. Id., at 481-482. The Court reasoned that the likelihood of the posttest samples proving to be exculpatory was extremely low, and further observed that the defendants were able to attack the reliability of the test results by presenting evidence of the ways in which the Intoxilyzer might have malfunctioned. This case differs from Trombetta in that here no
The exculpatory value of the clothing in this case cannot be determined with any certainty, precisely because the police allowed the samples to deteriorate. But we do know several important things about the evidence. First, the semen samples on the clothing undoubtedly came from the assailant. Second, the samples could have been tested, using technology available and in use at the local police department, to show either the blood type of the assailant, or that the assailant was a nonsecreter, i. e., someone who does not secrete a blood-type "marker" into other body fluids, such as semen. Third, the evidence was clearly important. A semen sample in a rape case where identity is questioned is always significant. See Hilliard v. Spalding, 719 F.2d 1443, 1446-1447 (CA9 1983); People v. Nation, 26 Cal.3d 169, 176-177, 604 P.2d 1051, 1054-1055 (1980). Fourth, a reasonable police officer should have recognized that the clothing required refrigeration. Fifth, we know that an inconclusive test was done on the swab. The test suggested that the assailant was a nonsecreter, although it was equally likely that the sample on the swab was too small for accurate results to be obtained. And, sixth, we know that respondent is a secreter.
If the samples on the clothing had been tested, and the results had shown either the blood type of the assailant or that the assailant was a nonsecreter, its constitutional materiality would be clear. But the State's conduct has deprived the defendant, and the courts, of the opportunity to determine with certainty the import of this evidence: it has "interfere[d] with
I recognize the difficulties presented by such a situation.
A corollary, particularly applicable to this case, is that the evidence embody some immutable characteristic of the assailant which can be determined by available testing methods. So, for example, a clear fingerprint can be compared to the defendant's fingerprints to yield a conclusive result; a blood sample, or a sample of body fluid which contains blood markers, can either completely exonerate or strongly implicate a defendant. As technology develops, the potential for this type of evidence to provide conclusive results on any number of questions will increase. Current genetic testing measures, frequently used in civil paternity suits, are extraordinarily precise. See Clark v. Jeter, 486 U.S. 456, 465 (1988). The importance of these types of evidence is indisputable, and requiring police to recognize their importance is not unreasonable.
The next inquiry is whether the evidence, which was obviously relevant and indicates an immutable characteristic of the actual assailant, is of a type likely to be independently exculpatory. Requiring the defendant to prove that the particular piece of evidence probably would be independently exculpatory
Due process must also take into account the burdens that the preservation of evidence places on the police. Law enforcement officers must be provided the option, as is implicit in Trombetta, of performing the proper tests on physical evidence and then discarding it.
Applying this standard to the facts of this case, I conclude that the Arizona Court of Appeals was correct in overturning respondent's conviction. The clothing worn by the victim contained samples of his assailant's semen. The appeals court found that these samples would probably be larger, less contaminated, and more likely to yield conclusive test results than would the samples collected by use of the assault kit. 153 Ariz. 50, 54, 734 P.2d 592, 596 (1986). The clothing
Because semen is a body fluid which could have been tested by available methods to show an immutable characteristic of the assailant, there was a genuine possibility that the results of such testing might have exonerated respondent. The only evidence implicating respondent was the testimony of the victim.
Considered in the context of the entire trial, the failure of the prosecution to preserve this evidence deprived respondent of a fair trial. It still remains "a fundamental value determination of our society that it is far worse to convict an innocent man than to let a guilty man go free." In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 372 (1970) (concurring opinion). The evidence in this case was far from conclusive, and the possibility that the evidence denied to respondent would have exonerated him was not remote. The result is that he was denied a fair trial by the actions of the State, and consequently was denied due process of law. Because the Court's opinion improperly limits the scope of due process, and ignores its proper focus in a futile pursuit of a bright-line rule,
Studies show that children are more likely to make mistaken identifications than are adults, especially when they have been encouraged by adults. See generally Cohen & Harnick, The Susceptibility of Child Witnesses to Suggestion, 4 Law and Human Behavior 201 (1980). Other studies show another element of possible relevance in this case: "Crossracial identifications are much less likely to be accurate than same race identifications." Rahaim & Brodsky, Empirical Evidence versus Common Sense: Juror and Lawyer Knowledge of Eyewitness Accuracy, 7 Law and Psych. Rev. 1, 2 (1982). These authorities suggest that eyewitness testimony alone, in the absence of corroboration, is to be viewed with some suspicion.