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United States v. Owens

United States Supreme Court
484 U.S. 554 (1988)

United States v. Owens


Owens (defendant) was charged with attempted murder in relation to the assault of a correctional counselor at a federal prison. The counselor suffered a skull fracture and was hospitalized for nearly a month. An FBI agent visited the counselor in the hospital a week after the assault and found that the counselor could not remember the name of his attacker. After a couple of weeks, the counselor was able to remember the circumstances of the attack and identified Owens from a photographic array. At trial, the counselor admitted that he could not remember having seen his attacker. Although the counselor had been visited by several people while in the hospital, the only visitor he could remember was the FBI agent. He could not remember whether any visitor might have suggested that Owens was the attacker. Owens tried to refresh the counselor’s memory using hospital records indicating that he had identified someone else as the attacker, but the counselor could not remember having made a different identification. Owens was convicted. The court of appeals reversed his conviction because it concluded that the counselor’s testimony lacked sufficient indicia of reliability and should not have been admitted into evidence. The United States (plaintiff) petitioned the Supreme Court for review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Scalia, J.)

Dissent (Brennan, J.)

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