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Davis v. Alaska

United States Supreme Court
415 U.S. 308 (1974)


Davis (defendant) was charged with the theft of a safe containing over $1,000 from a bar in Anchorage, Alaska on February 16, 1970. The empty safe was discovered outside of the city later that day. Sixteen-year-old Richard Green lived nearby and told police that he had seen two Negro men standing by a car near where the safe was found and that one of the men had a crowbar. Green identified Davis as one of the men. Green had a juvenile criminal record for burglary and was on probation at the time of the investigation. Prior to trial, the state moved for a protective order to prevent Davis from questioning Green about his juvenile record. Davis responded that he planned to use the juvenile record only to show that Green was on probation during the investigation and not as a general impeachment of Green’s character. Davis planned to then argue at trial that Green might have felt pressure to identify Davis in order to shift any suspicion away from Green or out of fear that Green’s probation might be revoked if he did not satisfy the police. The trial court granted the protective order based upon state laws that prohibited the use of juvenile adjudications against an individual in future proceedings. During trial, Davis cross-examined Green about his state of mind during the investigation and specifically asked Green if he had ever been questioned like that before by the police. Green responded in the negative, and the judge prevented further questioning. Davis was convicted and appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, holding that Davis had a reasonable opportunity to cross-examine Green on bias and motive without using the juvenile record. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Burger, C.J.)

Concurrence (Stewart, J.)

Dissent (White, J.)

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