Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Supreme Court right-to-counsel decision

The United States Supreme Court yesterday overruled a long-standing police interrogation precedent set almost 25 years ago. (See ScotusBlog report)

In its 1986 holding in Michigan v. Jackson, the Court had formulated the rule "forbidding police to initiate the interrogation of a criminal defendant once he/she has invoked his right to counsel at an arraignment or similar proceeding," reasoning that that protection "is not triggered unless the defendant actually requests a lawyer or has otherwise asserted his Sixth Amendment right to counsel." That scenario didn’t play out in this case, Montejo v. Louisiana, where the defendant presumably "stood mute at his hearing while the judge ordered the appointment of counsel, having made no such request or assertion.."

"Requiring an initial 'invocation' of the right to counsel in order to trigger the Jackson presumption," the Court said, "might work in States that require an indigent defendant to formally request counsel before an appointment is made, but not in more than half the States, which appoint counsel without request from the defendant."

"… when this Court creates a prophylactic rule to protect a constitutional right," the Court said, "the relevant 'reasoning' is the weighing of the rule's benefits against its costs, and Jackson's marginal benefits are dwarfed by its substantial costs.

"Even without Jackson, few badgering –induced waivers, if any, would be admitted at trial because the Court has taken substantial other, overlapping measures to exclude them. Under Miranda, any suspect subject to custodial interrogation must be advised of his right to have a lawyer present. Under Edwards v. Arizona, once such a defendant 'has invoked his [Miranda] right,' interrogation must stop. And under Minnick v. Mississippi, no subsequent interrogation may take place until counsel is present. These three layers of prophylaxis are sufficient… Under the Miranda-Edwards-Minnick line of cases (which is not in doubt), a defendant who does not want to speak to the police without counsel present need only say as much when he is first approached and given his Miranda warning."

Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer dissented

1 comment:

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