Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

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This compendium includes significant criminal cases by the U.S. Supreme Court & N.C. appellate courts, Nov. 2008 – Present. Selected 4th Circuit cases also are included.

Jessica Smith prepared case summaries Nov. 2008-June 4, 2019; later summaries are prepared by other School staff.

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E.g., 10/21/2021
E.g., 10/21/2021
Montejo v. Louisiana, 556 U.S. 778 (May. 26, 2009)

The defendant was arrested for murder, waived his Miranda rights, and gave statements in response to officers’ interrogation. He was brought before a judge for a preliminary hearing, who ordered that the defendant be held without bond and appointed counsel to represent him. Later that day, two officers visited the defendant in prison and asked him to accompany them to locate the murder weapon. He was again read his Miranda rights and agreed to go with the officers. During the trip, he wrote an inculpatory letter of apology to the murder victim’s widow. Only on his return did the defendant finally meet his court-appointed attorney. The issue before the Court was whether the letter of apology was erroneously admitted in violation of the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel. In Michigan v. Jackson, 475 U.S. 625 (1986), the Court had ruled that when a defendant requests counsel at an arraignment or similar proceeding at which the Sixth Amendment right to counsel attaches, an officer is thereafter prohibited under the Sixth Amendment from initiating interrogation. In this case, the defendant was appointed counsel as a matter of course per state law; no specific request for counsel was made. Instead of deciding whether Jackson barred the officers from initiating interrogation of the defendant after counsel was appointed, the Court overruled Jackson. Thus, it now appears that the Sixth Amendment is not violated when officers interrogate a defendant after the defendant has requested counsel, provided a waiver of the right to counsel is obtained. The Court hinted that a standard Miranda waiver will suffice to waive both the Fifth Amendment right to counsel and Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The Court remanded the case to the state court to determine unresolved factual and legal issues. Note that after Montejo, a defendant’s 5th Amendment right to counsel under Miranda for custodial interrogations remains intact.

No violation of the defendant’s sixth amendment right to counsel occurred when detectives interviewed him on new charges when he was in custody on other unrelated charges. The sixth amendment right to counsel is offense specific and had not attached for the new crimes.

After waiving his right to counsel the defendant did not unambiguously ask to speak a lawyer. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that he made a clear request for counsel. It concluded: “Defendant never expressed a clear desire to speak with an attorney. Rather, he appears to have been seeking clarification regarding whether he had a right to speak with an attorney before answering any of the detective’s questions.” The court added: “There is a distinct difference between inquiring whether one has the right to counsel and actually requesting counsel. Once defendant was informed that it was his decision whether to invoke the right to counsel, he opted not to exercise that right.”

When the defendant asked, “Do I need an attorney?” the officer responded, “are you asking for one?” The defendant failed to respond and continued telling the officer about the shooting. The defendant did not unambiguously request a lawyer.

The defendant’s statement, “I’m probably gonna have to have a lawyer,” was not an invocation of his right to counsel. The defendant had already expressed a desire to tell his side of the story and was asked to wait until they got to the station. Notwithstanding this, he gave a brief unsolicited statement to one officer while en route to the station, and this statement was relayed to the questioning officer. The questioning officer reasonably expected the defendant to continue their former conversation and proceed with the statement he apparently wished to make. Thus, when the defendant made the remark, the officer was understandably unsure of the defendant’s purpose, and followed up with an attempt to clarify the defendant’s intentions, at which point the defendant agreed to talk.

Kansas v. Ventris, 556 U.S. 586 (Apr. 29, 2009)

The defendant’s incriminating statement to a jailhouse informant, obtained in violation of the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel, was admissible on rebuttal to impeach the defendant’s trial testimony that conflicted with statement. The statement would not have been admissible during the state's presentation of evidence in its case-in-chief. 

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