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United States v. Havens

United States Supreme Court
446 U.S. 620 (1980)


Facts

A customs officer at Miami airport searched John McLeroth after his flight arrived from Lima, Peru. The officer found packets of cocaine sewn into pockets on McLeroth’s T-shirt. McLeroth told the officer that Havens (defendant), who was on the same flight and had cleared customs, was responsible for sewing the cocaine pockets onto his T-shirt. Havens was arrested and his suitcase searched without a warrant. The officers found a T-shirt with cut-out sections that corresponded in size and shape to the pockets sewn onto McLeroth’s T-shirt, however this evidence was suppressed on a pre-trial motion. McLeroth testified against Havens at his trial for conspiracy to import, importing and intentional possession of a controlled substance. McLeroth testified that Havens sewed the pockets and gave the T-shirt to McLeroth. Havens took the stand and responded on direct examination that he had not been involved with the “material” that was “taped or draped around [McLeroth’s] body.” On cross-examination, the court allowed the United States (the government) (plaintiff) to ask Havens about the T-shirt in his suitcase, including whether sections of the T-shirt were missing and if he knew that the T-shirt was in his luggage. Havens denied knowledge of the T-shirt. On rebuttal, the government had a government agent testify that the T-shirt with missing sections had been found in Havens’ luggage and regarding alleged statements by Havens regarding the T-shirt in his luggage. The district court instructed the jury to consider the evidence presented on rebuttal solely for impeachment purposes. Havens was convicted and appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeals, which reversed, holding that illegally obtained evidence was not admissible for impeachment unless used to contradict a statement made by the defendant during direct examination. The government appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (White, J.)

Dissent (Brennan, J.)

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