Manson v. Brathwaite Case Brief

Summary of Manson v. Brathwaite, US Supreme Court, 1977 (Blackmun)

F: Two undercover officers went to an apartment to buy drugs from someone there. Officer G knocked and a man opened the door. The officer was about two feet away and had several minutes to look at the man, who sold him some drugs. Later an officer at the station left a picture for Officer G to look at in his office. Officer G identified the picture of ∆ as the dealer.

I: Does the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment require per se exclusion of pretrial i.d. evidence obtained through suggestive police procedure?

P: At state level ∆ was convicted and the conviction affirmed. He filed a writ in fed court which affirmed again, but was reversed on appeal.

H: No.

a. Three factors determine whether a per se exclusionary rule or a totality of the circumstances rule should be used when a court is presented pretrial i.d. evidence that was the result of suggestive procedures.

i. Problems of eyewitness identification

ii. Deterrence (of use of suggestive procedures by police)

iii. Administration of Justice

b. The totality of the circumstances test is best. The trial court should consider:

i. Opportunity to view

ii. Degree of attention

iii. Accuracy of description

iv. Witness’ level of certainty

v. Time between the crime and confrontation

c. Based on these factors the court cannot say that there is a very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification.

Dissent (Marshall):

The per se test is better in all three factors. The totality rule will let bad evidence in. Studies have shown eyewitness identification is unreliable, yet the court removes protections against error.

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