Manson v. Brathwaite
432 U.S. 98, 97 S.Ct. 2243, 53 L.Ed.2d 140 (1977)

  • An undercover policeman named Glover bought some drugs from a guy in an apartment. He then described the seller to his partner, D’Onofrio.
  • Based on the description, D’Onofrio figured the seller was a guy named Brathwaite. He found a photo of Brathwaite and sent it to Glover, who identified Brathwaite as the seller. He was arrested and charged with selling drugs.
    • D’Onofrio did not present Glover with a ‘photographic array’, or ask him to identify Brathwaite out of a line-up. He only gave him the single photo.
      • It is pretty suggestive to show someone only one photo and say, “I think this is the guy.”
  • The Trial Court convicted Brathwaite of selling drugs. He appealed.
  • The Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the conviction. Brathwaite filed a habeus corpus petition with the Federal Court.
    • Brathwaite argued that the admission of the identification testimony at his state trial deprived him of due process in violation of the 14th Amendment.
  • The Federal Trial Court upheld the conviction. Brathwaite appealed.
  • The Federal Appellate Court overturned the conviction. The prosecutor appealed.
    • The Federal Appellate Court found that the identification was faulty because the examination of a single photograph was suggestive and unreliable.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed and upheld the conviction.
    • The US Supreme Court found that the courts should take a totality of the circumstances approach to determining reliability.
      • The identification would only violate the Due Process Clause if it did not possess sufficient aspects of reliability.
    • In this case, based on the facts of the case (like the fact that Glover was a trained police officer buying drugs specifically to pay attention and identify the seller), in the totality of the circumstances there was no substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification. Therefore the evidence should not be excluded.
      • The Court noted that (for example) if the identification had been made by a hysterical victim (as opposed to a policeman), or that the identification had been made months later (instead of days), then maybe the totality of the circumstances would warrant exclusion.
  • It is the defendant’s burden to show that the pre-indictment identification process was unnecessarily suggestive and that there was substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification.
    • Of course, the defense counsel can always argue that the jury should give no weight to the evidence. This standard is only to determine admissibility.