Illinois v. Fisher

In Illinois v. Fisher (2004), 540 U.S. 544, 124 S. Ct. 1200, 157 L. Ed. 2d 1060, the United States Supreme Court considered a due process claim based upon the destruction of drug evidence under established procedures. The defendant had been charged with possession of cocaine but became a fugitive while on bond. Testing of a white powder seized from appellant during a traffic stop had previously disclosed the substance to be cocaine. The powdery substance was subsequently destroyed under standard police procedures during a ten year period in which the defendant was a fugitive. The defendant in Illinois v. Fisher argued that the substance was "essential to and determinative of the outcome of the case" and that it provided the defendant his "only hope for exoneration." Id. at 548. The Supreme Court held, however, that the distinction recognized in Youngblood between materially exculpatory evidence and potentially useful evidence controlled. Id at 549. The court deemed that the evidence "might have provided the defendant with an opportunity to show that the police tests were mistaken" but that such evidence "was, at best, 'potentially useful' evidence, and therefore Youngblood's bad-faith requirement applies." Id.