Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188 (1972)

Author: U.S. Supreme Court

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Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188 (1972)

Neil v. Biggers

No. 71-586

Argued October 18-19, 1972
Decided December 6, 1972
409 U.S. 188



Respondent was convicted of rape on evidence that consisted in part of testimony concerning the victim’s visual and voice identification of respondent at a station-house showup that occurred seven months after the rape. The victim, who had been in the presence of her assailant a considerable time and had directly observed hm indoors and under a full moon outdoors, testified that she had "no doubt" that respondent was her assailant. She had previously given the police a description of her assailant, which was confirmed by a police officer. Before the showup where she identified respondent, the victim had made no identification of others who were presented at previous showups, lineups, or through photographs. The police asserted that they used the showup technique because they had difficulty in finding for a lineup other individuals generally fitting respondent’s description as given by the victim. The Tennessee Supreme Court’s affirmance of the conviction was affirmed here by an equally divided Court. 390 U.S. 404. Respondent then brought a habeas corpus action in District Court. After rejecting the petitioner’s contention that this Court’s affirmance constituted an actual adjudication within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 2244(c) and thus barred further review of the showup identification in a federal habeas corpus proceeding, the District Court, noting that a lineup is relatively more reliable than a showup, held that the confrontation here was so suggestive as to violate due process. The Court of Appeals affirmed.


1. This Court’s equally divided affirmance of respondent’s state court conviction does not, under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(c), bar further federal relief by habeas corpus, since such an affirmance merely ends the process of direct review, but settles no issue of law. Pp. 190-192.

2. While the station-house identification may have been suggestive, under the totality of the circumstances, the victim’s identification of respondent was reliable and was properly allowed to go to the jury. Pp. 196-201.

448 F.2d 91, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which DOUGLAS and STEWART, JJ., joined, post, p. 201. MARSHALL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.


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Chicago: U.S. Supreme Court, "Syllabus," Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188 (1972) in 409 U.S. 188 409 U.S. 189. Original Sources, accessed September 30, 2023,

MLA: U.S. Supreme Court. "Syllabus." Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188 (1972), in 409 U.S. 188, page 409 U.S. 189. Original Sources. 30 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: U.S. Supreme Court, 'Syllabus' in Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188 (1972). cited in 1972, 409 U.S. 188, pp.409 U.S. 189. Original Sources, retrieved 30 September 2023, from