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Cupp v. Murphy

Law Dictionary
CASE BRIEFS

Law Dictionary

Featuring Black's Law Dictionary 2nd Ed.
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Criminal Procedure keyed to Weinreb

Citation. Cupp v. Murphy, 412 U.S. 291, 93 S. Ct. 2000, 36 L. Ed. 2d 900, 1973 U.S. LEXIS 63 (U.S. May 29, 1973)

Brief Fact Summary. An individual was convicted of murdering his wife. The police took samples of physical evidence without the permission of the individual.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. “On the facts of this case, considering the existence of probable cause, the very limited intrusion undertaken incident to the station house detention, and the ready destructibility of the evidence, we cannot say that this search violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.”ť


Facts. The Respondent, Daniel Murphy (the “Respondent”ť), was convicted of the second degree murder of his wife. After learning of the murder, the Respondent called the police and voluntarily submitted to questioning. During the questioning, the police noticed a dark spot on the Respondent’s finger. The police thought the spot could have been dried blood and during the questioning asked the Respondent if they could have a sample of what was under his fingernail. He refused. Irrespective of his protests, the police took a sample. It turned out that there were traces of skin, blood and fabric from the deceased’s nightgown in the sample. The evidence was admitted at trial.
The Respondent appealed his conviction and argued that the taking of the samples were the product of an unconstitutional search under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution (“Constitution”ť). The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. The Respondent then moved for habeus corpus relief and the District Court denied his petition. Thereafter, the Ninth Circuit reversed and held the search was unconstitutional. They found that the police had probable cause to arrest the Respondent, but that they did not have the right to conduct the search for physical evidence.

Issue. Whether the taking of trace evidence from beneath the Respondent’s fingernails without the permission of the Respondent was unlawful?

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