Walder v. United States

347 U.S. 62 (1954)

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Walder v. United States

United States Supreme Court
347 U.S. 62 (1954)

  • Written by Arlyn Katen, JD

Facts

In 1952, Walder (defendant) was federally indicted for four drug transactions. At trial, two government informants testified that they had purchased narcotics from Walder under the direction of federal agents. Walder testified in his own defense, claiming that he had never sold drugs to anyone in his life, had never given anyone drugs for any reason, and had never possessed any narcotics that were not prescribed by a doctor. Over defense counsel’s objection, the trial court allowed the prosecution (plaintiff) to cross-examine Walder about a 1950 federal indictment that resulted from police’s February 1950 seizure of a heroin capsule from Walder’s home. The government dismissed Walder’s 1950 charges for purchase and possession of heroin after the district court found that the heroin had been unlawfully seized and suppressed the heroin. During the cross-examination, Walder denied that narcotics were taken from him in February 1950. The prosecution then presented testimony from one of the officers who had participated in the unlawful search and seizure in 1950 and from the chemist who had analyzed the heroin capsule seized during that search. The district court instructed jurors that it could consider evidence of the 1950 case solely to impeach Walder’s credibility, and not to determine whether Walder had committed the alleged 1952 offenses. The jury convicted Walder, and Walder appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed Walder’s conviction. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to answer the sole question of whether Walder’s testimony that he had never possessed any narcotics opened the door for the prosecution to attack Walder’s credibility with evidence from an unconstitutional search of Walder’s home.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Frankfurter, J.)

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