28 May 2009

Montejo: The Defendant Must Assert His Rights Directly to the Officers' Face

Important Cases Involved: Montejo v. Louisiana, Michigan v. Jackson (overruled), Miranda v. Arizona, Edwards v. Arizona

Tuesday the Supreme Court went out of its way to squash the 1986 decision Jackson. In Jackson the Supreme Court had, under the 6th Amendment, expanded the protections against constitutional violations by stating that as soon as an indigent defendant asked for an attorney to be appointed he had asserted his right to have an attorney present at all important parts of a trial, including any subsequent police interviews. Louisiana played games with the Jackson decision. Its supreme court ruled that because a defendant didn't actually request counsel when he went to court and had an attorney appointed, he didn't get the protection of Jackson.

Reviewing this, the US Supreme Court decided that because in some States indigents have attorneys appointed upon a showing of lack of funds rather than a request Jackson had to go. It backed this by stating that the 5th Amendment provided redundant protections, via Miranda and Edwards which are not being removed by the revocation of Jackson. It then sent the case back down to have a 5th Amendment analysis done.

Before I discussed this, I wanted to take an opportunity to review Edwards because the Court seemed to both say that it provided redundant protections to Jackson and less protections (the reason the case was returned to the State courts for another analysis). In Edwards a defendant claimed his right to have an attorney present during questioning. The questioning stopped, but the next day the defendant was read Miranda again, waived his attorney and made incriminating statements. The court held
[W]e now hold that, when an accused has invoked his right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation, a valid waiver of that right cannot be established by showing only that he responded to further police-initiated custodial interrogation, even if he has been advised of his rights. We further hold that an accused, such as Edwards, having expressed his desire to deal with the police only through counsel, is not subject to further interrogation by the authorities until counsel has been made available to him unless the accused himself initiates further communication, exchanges, or conversations with the police.
Practical Application

As a practical matter, Motejo and Ventris render 6th Amendment protections during an interrogation non-existent. Combined with the basic reality that law enforcement plays by the rules we give them, this fundamentally changes the reality of police interrogation.

Law enforcement officers can interview the defendant at any point up to the time of his actual trial and are only required to stop if he unambiguously asserts his 5th Amendment rights. LEO's are not required to inform the defendant's attorney of this or have her present during the interrogation. Furthermore, non-coercive subterfuge tactics, such as placing an informant in the cell with the defendant, even after an assertion that the defendant wants his attorney present during interviews, would only be barred under the 6th Amendment from use in the prosecutor's case in chief, but could still be used in rebuttal.

No comments: