Brief Fact Summary. Two men were indicted for bank robbery and appointed counsel to defend them. They were brought before the employees to participate in a line up identification procedure without the benefit of the presence of counsel, after indictment, but prior to trial.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution (“Constitution”) guarantees an accused the right to counsel at post indictment identification procedures, and the failure to provide the accused with counsel will result in the suppression of the improperly conducted identification.
At trial, Wade’s defense counsel objected to the identification procedures, but his efforts to have them stricken were in vain. Wade was convicted of the robbery. The Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that the lineup had violated Wade’s Sixth Amendment constitutional right to counsel.
Issue. Whether courtroom identifications of an accused at trial are to be excluded from evidence because the accused was exhibited to the witnesses before trial at a post indictment lineup conducted for identification purposes, without notice to, and in the absence of, the accused’s appointed counsel?
Held. Yes. The court must analyze whether potential substantial prejudice to defendant’s rights inheres in the particular confrontation and the ability of counsel to help avoid that prejudice. The in court identification must be found to have independent origin, free of the primary taint of the improperly conducted lineup, in order to be admitted.
The trial which might determine the accused's fate may well not be that in the courtroom but that at the pretrial confrontation, with the State aligned against the accused, the witness the sole jury, and the accused unprotected against the overreaching, intentional or unintentional, and with little or no effective appeal from the judgment there rendered by the witness--that's the man.View Full Point of Law
Justice Abe Fortas (“J. Fortas”) concurred in the holding of the court, but would also hold that the accused may not be compelled to utter words during the lineup for the purposes of identification. He reasons that it could not be compelled in the courtroom, and, as a result, should not be compelled at a critical pre-trial proceeding.
Concurrence. Justice Tom Clark (“J. Clark”) writes separately to agree with the holding due to the applicability of Miranda v. Arizona, holding it self evident that an identification procedure is a critical stage of the prosecution.
Discussion. The opinion emphasizes the fact that the Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination is not implicated because nothing about the lineup itself violated the long line of cases holding that only testimonial or communicative evidence must be suppressed if coerced. The Sixth Amendment right to counsel, however, did attach to pretrial proceedings because of the importance that they have carrying on an adequate defense. The right has been interpreted to apply to “critical” stages of the proceedings. Identification procedures are critical because of the many dangers that inhere in identification procedures in general, and in eyewitness identifications in particular. Any prejudice occurring in an identification procedure without counsel present would denigrate the right of the defendant to effectively cross examine the witness in question.