Murray v. United States
Decided on June 27, 1988; 487 US 533


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Criminal Justice (drugs), 4th Amendment and 6th Amendment

B. Legal Question Presented:

Must evidence be suppressed if a portion of such evidence had been observed in plain view at the time of an illegal entry even though it is later obtained pursuant to a search warrant?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents witnessed Petitioners drive away from a warehouse that had been under the agency's surveillance for several hours. The vehicles were subsequently seized and marijuana was discovered in the vehicles. After receiving information about the seizure of the marijuana agents forced open the door of the warehouse with a tire iron. Agents entered without a warrant and discovered bales of marijuana in plain view. Agents left and reentered after a warrant was obtained. As a result, 270 bales of marijuana were seized.

The District Court denied Petitioners' pretrial motion to suppress the evidence, rejecting their arguments that the warrant was invalid because the agents did not inform the Magistrate about their prior warrantless entry, and that the warrant was thus tainted by that entry. Petitioners were subsequently convicted of conspiracy to possess and distribute illegal drugs. The Court of Appeals affirmed and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

This case was decided with Carter v. United States.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
A. Raymond Randolph argued the cause for petitioners in both cases. With him on the briefs was Susan L. Launer. Roy T. Englert, Jr. argued the cause for the United States. With him on the briefs were Solicitor General Fried, Assistant Attorney General Weld, Deputy Solicitor General Bryson, and Patty Merkamp Stemler.
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Larry W. Yackle, John A. Powell, David B. Goldstein, and John Reinstein filed a brief for the American Civil Liberties Union et al. as amicus curiae urging reversal.
No amici curiae briefs were filed on behalf of Respondent.
IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"The Fourth Amendment does not require suppression of evidence initially discovered during police officers' illegal entry of private premises and rediscovered during a later search pursuant to a valid warrant that is wholly independent of the initial illegal entry... Although the federal agent's knowledge that marijuana was in the warehouse was assuredly acquired at the time of the entry pursuant to the warrant, it was also acquired at the time of the unlawful entry pursuant to the warrant, and if that later acquisition was not the result of the earlier entry, the independent source doctrine allows the admission of the testimony as to that knowledge. This same analysis applies to the tangible evidence, the bales of marijuana...

The cases are remanded for determination whether the warrant-authorized search of the warehouse was an independent source of the challenged evidence... [b]ecause the District Court did not explicitly find that the agents would have sought a warrant if they had not earlier entered the warehouse..."
Justice Vote: 4 Pro vs. 3 Con

  • Scalia, A. Pro (Wrote the majority opinion)
  • Rehnquist, W. Pro (Joined the majority)
  • White, B. Pro (Joined the majority)
  • Blackmun, H. Pro (Joined the majority)
  • Marshall, T. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • O’Connor, S. Con (Joined Marshall’s dissent)
  • Stevens, J. Con (Joined Marshall’s dissent)
  • Brennan, W. - Took no part in the decision process of the case
  • Kennedy, A. - Took no part in the decision process of the case
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief as amicus curiae urging reversal. The United States Supreme Court vacated and remanded the case by a 4-3 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.