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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 116715
Experience:  Attorney with over 20 years law enforcement, prosecution, civil rights and defense experience
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A young man robbed a woman in a womens restroom at the Washington

Customer Question

A young man robbed a woman in a women's restroom at the Washington National Monument. During the robbery, the woman had a good opportunity to see the young man. The woman immediately reported the robbery and described the young man who robbed her. Three days later, a young man (Crews) was improperly and illegally detained. Photographs were taken of the young man, and a photographic display was shown to the woman. She immediately identified Crews as the man who robbed her at gunpoint. In a lineup, the woman again identified Crews as the robber. At the trial for armed robbery, the woman appeared as a witness and identified the defendant as the robber. Crews was convicted and appealed, arguing that the in-court identification was the fruit of the poisonous tree and should not to be used as evidence.

Should the woman's in-court identification be allowed as evidence?
Why or why not?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
This depends on whether or not the first photographic lineup was a proper line up. If the first lineup conducted was improper then all subsequent identifications can be invalidated as tainted by the first line up. When you say he was improperly and illegally detained, I am presuming that is just a given fact without any further information given. If he was not improperly detained for this crime, then the poisonous tree doctrine would not apply as the detention was not for the crime charged as they can prove that the identity would have inevitably been discovered despite the illegal stop.

In determining whether evidence is the "fruit of the poisonous tree" and therefore inadmissible the correct inquiry is " ' "whether, granting establishment of the primary illegality, the evidence to which instant objection is made has been come at by exploitation of that illegality or instead by means sufficiently distinguishable to be purged of the primary taint." ' There are three recognized avenues for admitting the "fruit of a poisonous tree" despite its illegal origins: (1) The same evidence was discovered through an independent source not tainted by the poisonous tree. (2) The evidence was not found through a second untainted source but it should not be suppressed despite law enforcement's illegal acts because the same evidence would have been inevitably discovered through legal means. (The inevitable discovery rule is "a variation upon the ' "independent source" ' theory, 'but it differs in that the question is not whether the police did in fact acquire certain evidence by reliance upon an untainted source but instead whether evidence found because of a Fourth Amendment violation would inevitably have been discovered lawfully.' See: Wong Sun v. United States (1963) 371 U.S. 471, 488 [83 S.Ct. 407, 417-418, 9 L.Ed.2d 441], quoting Maguire, Evidence of Guilt (1959) p. 221.)

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