Case Analysis: United States V, Wade 388 U.S. 218, (1967)

Case Analysis: United States V, Wade 388 U.S. 218, (1967)

A brief outline of the case of United States v. Wade 388 U.S. 218, (1967)

The case of United States v. Wade 388 U.S. 218, of 1967 was brought before the U.S Supreme Court. The court was told that the defendant had been convicted by a trial court for robbing a federally insured bank and conspiracy. The defendant faulted the manner in which the trial court conducted its proceedings arguing that the trial judge allowed the admission of evidence that was collected on a line-up in the absence of the defendant’s legal counsel. The suspects on the line-up were asked to adorn a strip of tape on their faces as the original robbers had and then they were each to repeat a set of words. The defendant was picked by the employees who were at the bank at the time of the robbery (Gonzalez, et al., 2001).

During the original trial, the main issue that arose related to the infringement of the respondents rights that are secured in the constitution. The prosecutor tried to admit the results of the cross-examination into evidence. This move elicited some serious argument from the defence side as they argued on the legality of these submissions that had been obtained in the absence of the defence counsel. In his objection to the prosecutor’s move, the defence attorney argued that the line-up had violated his client’s the Fifth Amendment provision that safeguarded an individual against self-incrimination and the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel. Therefore, the respondent filed a motion for acquittal or the striking of court identifications. However, the trial judge overruled on the argument presented by the defence counsel and allowed the trial to proceed and this ended up in the conviction of the respondent (Gonzalez, et al., 2001).

The Court of Appeal reversed the judgement passed by the trial court. In reaching this decision, Justice Brennan held that although there was no violation of the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, the Sixth Amendment was violated because the defence counsel was not present at the time his client was being paraded in front of the eyewitnesses. While giving the court’s opinion, Justice Brennan asserted that the Fifth Amendment was not violated because the line-up did not include a process of deducing evidence from the respondent that would be self-incriminating. While asserting that the respondents Sixth Amendment had been violated, Judge Brennan held that the presence of the defence counsel was important in all proceedings leading to trial and his absence in the line-up was an error and a violation of the respondents Sixth Amendment (Gonzalez, et al., 2001).

Evidently, the absence of the defence counsel was proof enough that the right to counsel secured under the Sixth Amendment had been violated. The Court of Appeal of the Fifth Circuit reversed the conviction of the trial court and ordered for a fresh trial. The Appellate Court further directed that the in-court identification that had been obtained via the line-up, which the defence counsel was absent, be excluded from the new trial.  This decision upheld the respondent’s right for legal representation both in pre-trial and trial proceedings (Gonzalez, et al., 2001).

Part 2

Suspect identification can be accomplished by the application of three methods. These include line-ups, In-court identifications, and DNA testing. The defence attorney plays an integral role in all these modes of suspect identification. Primarily, the defence counsel is expected to represent his client in all pre-trial and trial procedures. The defence counsel is expected to guide his expected to advise his client on how to conduct self in any of these modes. Additionally, the defence counsel should be in a position to protect his client from any procedure that is contrary to the rules of evidence and procedure (Zalman, 2012). DNA testing and line-ups are normally conducted at the pre-trial stage. The defence counsel must be present during these processes. Failure of including the defence counsel in these processes constitutes a violation of the Sixth Amendment that touches on the right of counsel.

In-court identification is also conducted in the presence of both the accused person and his lawyer. The defence attorney can object if he feels that that this mode of identification is not conducted according the rules of procedure and evidence. This will in effect ensure that the accused person is well represented increasing the chances for a fair trial (Zalman, 2012).

Part 3

As a lead detective of my department, I would ensure that the rules of evidence and procedure are followed to the latter. I would ensure that all arrested suspects are made aware of their rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. In this regard, I would advise the suspects to watch their mouths and avoid self-incriminating (Zalman, 2012). Then I will inform of their right to counsel as provided by the Sixth Amendment. I would also ensure that lawyers are appointed to handle cases where the suspects cannot afford to raise legal fees. Following this, I will ensure that legal counsel is present during pre-trial line-ups. All these will ensure the accused person’s rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments are upheld.




Gonzalez, R., Ellsworth, P. C., & Pembroke, M. (2001). Response biases in line-ups and showups. Journal of personality and Social Psychology, 64(4), 525.

Zalman, M. (2010). United States v. Wade, Kirby v. Illinois, United States v. Ash: The Identification Trilogy. Criminal Procedure and the Supreme Court: A Guide to the Major Decisions on Search and Seizure, Privacy, and Individual Rights, 268.


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