United States v. Havens, 446 U.S. 620 (1980)

Author: U.S. Supreme Court

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United States v. Havens, 446 U.S. 620 (1980)

United States v. Havens

No. 79-305

Argued March 19, 1980
Decided May 27, 1980
446 U.S. 620



After respondent and another man (McLeroth) arrived at the Miami Airport on a flight from Peru, a customs officer searched McLeroth and found cocaine sewed into makeshift pockets in a T-shirt he was wearing. When McLeroth implicated respondent, respondent was arrested and his luggage was searched without a warrant. A T-shirt from which pieces had been cut that matched the pieces sewn to McLeroth’s T-shirt was found in the luggage and seized. The seized T-shirt was suppressed prior to respondent’s trial on federal drug charges. At the trial, McLeroth, who had pleaded guilty, testified against respondent, asserting that respondent had supplied him with the altered T-shirt and had sewed the makeshift pockets shut. Respondent, taking the stand in his own defense, acknowledged, in his direct testimony, McLeroth’s prior testimony that the cocaine was "taped or draped around his body," but denied that he had "ever engage[d] in that kind of activity" with McLeroth. On cross-examination, the Government called attention to these answers and then asked whether respondent had anything to do with sewing the makeshift pockets on McLeroth’s T-shirt. Respondent denied that he had. And when the Government asked him whether he had a T-shirt with pieces missing in his luggage and whether the seized T-shirt was in his luggage, respondent replied to both questions: "Not to my knowledge." After rebuttal testimony for the Government, the seized T-shirt was admitted into evidence over objection, the jury being instructed that the rebuttal evidence was to be considered only for impeaching respondent’s credibility. Respondent’s conviction was reversed by the Court of Appeals, which held that illegally seized evidence may be used for impeachment only if the evidence contradicts a particular statement made by a defendant in the course of his direct examination.

Held: A defendant’s statements made in response to proper cross-examination reasonably suggested by the defendant’s direct examination are subject to otherwise proper impeachment by the Government, albeit by evidence that has been illegally obtained and is inadmissible as substantive evidence of guilt. Cf. Harris v. New York, 401 U.S. 222; Oregon v. Hass, 420 U.S. 714. Here, respondent’s testimony on direct examination could easily be understood as a denial of any connection with McLeroth’s T-shirt and as a contradiction of McLeroth’s testimony, and the Government on cross-examination reasonably called attention to respondent’s answers on direct and then asked whether he had anything to do with sewing the pockets on McLeroth’s T-shirt. This was cross-examination growing out of respondent’s direct testimony, and the ensuing impeachment did not violate his constitutional rights. Pp. 624-628.

592 F.2d 848, reversed and remanded.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, and in Part I of which STEWART and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 629.


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Chicago: U.S. Supreme Court, "Syllabus," United States v. Havens, 446 U.S. 620 (1980) in 446 U.S. 620 446 U.S. 621. Original Sources, accessed August 7, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=5AX3YUGVZUNPDJZ.

MLA: U.S. Supreme Court. "Syllabus." United States v. Havens, 446 U.S. 620 (1980), in 446 U.S. 620, page 446 U.S. 621. Original Sources. 7 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=5AX3YUGVZUNPDJZ.

Harvard: U.S. Supreme Court, 'Syllabus' in United States v. Havens, 446 U.S. 620 (1980). cited in 1980, 446 U.S. 620, pp.446 U.S. 621. Original Sources, retrieved 7 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=5AX3YUGVZUNPDJZ.