HARRIS v. NEW YORK Certiorari to the Court of Appeals of New

Certiorari to the Court of Appeals of New Y ork
401 U.S. 222(1971)
MR. CHIE F JU STICE BU RG ER delivered the opinio n of the Co urt.
We granted the writ in this case to consider petitioner's claim that
a statem ent m ade by him to police un der circum stances rendering it
inadmissible to establish the prosecution s case in chief under Miranda v.
Arizona, 384 U.S, 436 (1966), may not be used to impeach his credibility.
The State of New York charged petitioner in a two-count indictment
with twice selling heroin to an undercover police officer. At a subsequent
jury trial the officer w as the States chief witness, and he testified as to
details of the two sales. A second officer verified collateral details of the
sales, and a third offered testimony about the chemical analysis of the
Petitioner took the stand in his own defense. He admitted knowing
the undercover police officer but denied a sale on January 4, 1966. He
admitted making a sale of contents of a glassine bag to the officer on
Janu ary 6 but claimed it w as baking pow der and part of a scheme to
defraud the purchaser.
On cross-examination petitioner was asked seriatim whether he had
made specified statements to the police immediately following his arrest
on January 7— statements that partially contradicted petitioners direct
testimony at trial. In response to the cross-examination, petitioner testified
that he could not remem ber virtually any of the questions or answers
recited by the prosecutor. At the request of petitioner's counsel the written
statem ent from w hich the prosecutor had read questions and answ ers in
his impeaching process was placed in the record for possible use on
appeal; the statement was not shown to the jury.
The trial jud ge instructed the jury that the statem ents attributed to
petitioner by the prosecution could be considered only in passing on
petitioner’s credibility and not as evidence of guilt. In closing summations
both counsel argued the substance of the impeaching statem ents. The jury
then foun d petitioner guilty on the seco nd coun t of the indictment. . . .
At trial the prosecution made no effort in its case in chief to use
the statements alleged ly made by petitioner, conceding that they were
inadmissible under Miranda v. A rizona, 384 US- 436 (1 966 ). . . . Petitioner makes no claim that the statements made to the police w ere
coerced or involuntary.
Some com ments in the Miranda opinion can indeed be read as
indicating a bar to use of an uncounseled statement for any purpose, but
discussion of that issue was not at all necessary to the Courts holding
and cannot be regarded as controlling . . .
In Walder v. United States. 347 U.S. 62 (1954), the Court permitted
physical evidence, inadmissible in the case in chief, to be used for
impeachm ent purposes.
It is one thing to say that the Government cannot make an
affirmative u se of evidence unlawfu lly ob tained . It is quite another to
say that the defendant can turn the illegal method by which ev idence in
the Government's possession was obtained to his own advantage, and
provide himself with a shield against contradiction of his untruths. Such
an ex tension of the W eeks doctrine would be a perversion of the Fourth
Am endment.
[T]here is hardly Justification for lotting the defendant
affirmatively resort to perjurious testimony in reliance on l:he
Governments disability to challeng e his credibility. [347 U.S., at 65.j
It is true that Walder was impeached as to collateral matters included
in his direct exam ination, whereas petitioner here was imp eached as to
testimony bearing more directly on the crimes charged. We are not
persuaded that there is a difference in principle that w arrants a result
different from that reached by the Court in Walder. Petitioner's testimony
in his own behalf concerning the even ts of January 7 contrasted sharp ly
with what he told the police shortly after his arrest. The impeachment
process here undoubtedly provided valuable aid to the jury in assessing
petitioner's credibility , and the benefits of this process shou ld not be lost,
in our view , because of the speculative p ossibility that impermissible
police conduct will be encouraged thereby. Assuming that the exclusionary rule has a deterrent effect on proscribed police conduct, sufficient
deterrence flow s wh en the evid ence in question is made unavailab le to
the prosecution in its case in chief.
Every criminal defendant is privileged to testify in his own defense,
or to refuse to do so. But that privilege cannot be construed to include
the right to commit perjury. Having voluntarily taken the stand, petitioner
was under an obligation to speak truthfully and accurately, and the
prosecution here did no more than utilize the traditional truth-testing
devices of the ad versary process. . . .
The shield provided by Miranda cannot be perverted into a license
to use perjury by way of a defense, free from the risk of confrontation
with prior inconsistent utterances. W e hold , therefore, that petitioner's
credibility was appropriately impeached by use of his earlier conflicting
[JUSTICE BLACK dissented without an opinion. The dissenting opinion of JUSTICE BRENNAN, joined by JUSTICES DOUGLAS and MARSHALL,
is om itted.]
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