Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Case Brief: Kirby v. Illinois, 406 U.S. 683 (1972)

Here's another case brief that should make the lives of law school students and CJ students a whole lot easier. Please do not copy this verbatim. Instead, use it as reference for writing your own case brief. Sometimes the issues of older cases are hard to grasp compared to the varied legal issues surrounding the cases we work on today, which is the only reason I post my own briefs.

Name of the Case

Kirby v. Illinois, 406 U.S. 683 (1972)

Facts of the Case

The defendant and a companion were stopped for questioning by police officers, and during the process, when asked for identification, each of the defendants produced items bearing a name. After being arrested on an unrelated charge, the officers learned of a robbery involving someone with the name that was presented as identification by the suspects two days earlier. The officers sent for the victim of the robbery, who identified the suspects. The suspects were not advised of their right to counsel prior to the identification, and this issue was brought up during the appeal process. The appeal was denied and the original conviction was affirmed.


The main issue at hand is whether or not there was a Sixth Amendment violation. The suspects were not advised of their right to counsel before the victim of the crime appeared to identify them. The Sixth Amendment states that the accused should"… have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence," which not only applies to the criminal trial, but from the point at which he has been arrested and charged with a crime in order to not violate his due process rights.

Court Decision

The Court affirmed the conviction of robbery by the defendants, and concluded that no violation of rights occurred.

Rationale for the Decision

Justice Stewart wrote for the majority and delivered the opinion of the court. The Court concluded that there was no violation of the suspects' due process right to an attorney. The suspects were arrested, and not advised of their rights. The arrest was for another issue not relayed in the facts presented in the decision of the court, and the subsequent identification by the victim of the robbery was not related to the arrest. Because of this, the suspect has no right to a lawyer if he is going to be presented in a lineup, being that he has not been formally charged with a crime. The victim of the crime appeared at the police station and "positively identified them as the men who had robbed him two days earlier." A case was made by the defense, claiming that the lineup itself violated the defendants right against self-incrimination, although the decision of the court stated that in order for one to incriminate him/herself, one must speak on behalf of him/herself, citing Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757. Detailing the aspect of a right to counsel, the court determines that following the rules outlined in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, best conclude when the right to counsel becomes apparent. In this case, as in all others, the right to counsel comes into play during the combination of custody and questioning, and not before or after. As soon as an arrest has been made, the right to counsel becomes the foremost authority. In conclusion, the court determined the lineup performed by the police officers was not in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The aforementioned Amendments require that a lineup avoid any suggestive notions. Citing Stovall v. Denno, 388 U.S. 293, and Foster v. California, 394 U.S. 440, the rules of a proper lineup are outlined by stating that a befitting balance must be performed at all times.

Concurring Opinions

Chief Justice Burger, and Justice Powell concur, stating that the results reached by the Court are within reason.

Dissention Opinion

Justice Brennan wrote the dissenting opinion. Justice Douglas and Justice Marshall join. The matter of dissent is one of semantics is reference to the style of lineup performed by the officers. It is duly noted that the identification made by the victim of the robbery was not that of a lineup, but of a show-up in which the victim identified the suspects who were seated with the officers at a table. Justice Brennan states that the show-up was highly suggestive, due to the fact that the officers were sitting at the table with the defendant. Justice White joins in the dissenting opinion, citing United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 281 (1967), and Gilbert v. California, 388 U.S. 283 (1967) as argument for the decision.

Holding of the Court

The court determined that if a suspect is being held on one offence, only to be identified later for another offence, the original terms of the detainment do not apply. No violation of due process rights are made when the advisement as to the right to counsel are not made, as the current period of being detained is under different circumstances, thus making all actions prior to formal charges allowable.

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