Stone v. Powell 428 U.S. 465 (1976)

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STONE v. POWELL 428 U.S. 465 (1976)

By act of Congress, a state prisoner may petition a federal court for a writ of habeas corpus on a claim that he was imprisoned in violation of his constitutional rights. In Stone, however, the Supreme Court ruled that federal courts should not entertain habeas corpus claims by prisoners who charge that they were convicted on unconstitutionally seized evidence, when the prisoner has had an opportunity for a full and fair hearing on the issue in the state courts.

The Court differentiated, for habeas corpus purposes, between the guarantees of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, which are vital to the trustworthiness of the fact-finding process, and the fourth amendment, which is not. Exclusion of evidence is not a personal right of the defendant but a judicial remedy designed to deter the police from unlawful searches. Thus the exclusionary rule is not an "absolute" but must be balanced against competing policies. Indiscriminate application of the rule, far from fostering respect for constitutional values, might generate disrespect for the judicial system. On the other hand, denying the right to raise search and seizure claims in habeas corpus proceedings would not seriously diminish the educational effect of the rule; it was scarcely likely that police would be deterred by the possibility that the legality of the search would be challenged in habeas corpus proceedings after the state courts had upheld it.

Dissenting Justices william j. brennan and thurgood marshall averred that the exclusionary rule is a right of the defendant and not a "mere utilitarian tool" which turns on its deterrent value.

Jacob W. Landynski