Cupp Versus Murphy Brief

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Criminal Justice

I. Brief Cupp v. Murphy

412 U.S. 291, 93 S.Ct. 2000, 36 L.Ed.2d 900 (1973)

Merits: The respondent, Daniel Murphy, was convicted by a jury in an Oregon court of the second-degree murder of his wife. The victim died by strangulation in her home in the city of Portland, and abrasions and lacerations were found on her throat. There was no sign of a break-in or robbery. Word of the murder was sent to the estranged husband, Daniel Murphy. Upon receiving the message, Murphy promptly telephoned the Portland police and voluntarily came into Portland for questioning. Shortly after the respondent’s arrival at the station house, where he was met by retained counsel, the police noticed a dark spot on the respondent’s finger. Suspecting that the spot might be dried blood and knowing that evidence of strangulation is often found under the assailant’s fingernails, the police asked Murphy if they could take a sample of scrapings from his fingernails. He refused. Under protest and without a warrant, the police proceeded to take the samples. After this evidence was collected, Murphy was released and was not formally “arrested” until approximately one month later. The samples turned out to contain traces of skin and blood cells, and fabric from the victim’s nightgown. This incriminating evidence was admitted at the trial over defense objections.

Appellate Procedure: The respondent appealed his conviction, claiming that the fingernail scrapings were the product of an unconstitutional search under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction, 465 P.2d 900, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari, 400 U.S. 944. Murphy then commenced the present action for federal habeas corpus relief. The District Court, in an unreported decision, denied the habeas petition, and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, 461 F.2d 1006. The Court of...
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