27 January 2004

Fellers v. United States

The Supreme court reverses the lower courts by ruling that questioning before Miranda violates 6th Amendment but remands to the Circuit Court for a decision as to whether that means the post-Miranda confession must be supressed.
The Court of Appeals erred in holding that the absence of an "interrogation" foreclosed petitioner's claim that the jailhouse statements should have been suppressed as fruits of the statements taken from petitioner at his home. First, there is no question that the officers in this case "deliberately elicited" information from petitioner. Indeed, the officers, upon arriving at petitioner's house, informed him that their purpose in coming was to discuss his involvement in the distribution of methamphetamine and his association with certain charged co-conspirators. 285 F. 3d, at 723; App. 112. Because the ensuing discussion took place after petitioner had been indicted, outside the presence of counsel, and in the absence of any waiver of petitioner's Sixth Amendment rights, the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the officers' actions did not violate the Sixth Amendment standards established in Massiah, supra, and its progeny.

Second, because of its erroneous determination that petitioner was not questioned in violation of Sixth Amendment standards, the Court of Appeals improperly conducted its "fruits" analysis under the Fifth Amendment. Specifically, it applied Elstad, supra, to hold that the admissibility of the jailhouse statements turns solely on whether the statements were " 'knowingly and voluntarily made.' " 285 F. 3d, at 724 (quoting Elstad, supra, at 309). The Court of Appeals did not reach the question whether the Sixth Amendment requires suppression of petitioner's jailhouse statements on the ground that they were the fruits of previous questioning conducted in violation of the Sixth Amendment deliberate-elicitation standard. We have not had occasion to decide whether the rationale of Elstad applies when a suspect makes incriminating statements after a knowing and voluntary waiver of his right to counsel notwithstanding earlier police questioning in violation of Sixth Amendment standards. We therefore remand to the Court of Appeals to address this issue in the first instance.
It's an interesting opinion but doesn't appear all that useful without an answer to the second question. You have to wonder if the appellate court will take the hint.

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