skip navigation
search

Minnick v. Mississippi (89-6332), 498 U.S. 146 (1990)
Syllabus
Dissent
Opinion
HTML version
WordPerfect version
HTML version
WordPerfect version
HTML version
WordPerfect version

Syllabus

NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Lumber Co., 200 U.S. 321, 337.

Syllabus

MINNICK v. MISSISSIPPI

No. 89-6332. Argued October 3, 1990 — Decided December 3, 1990

Petitioner Minnick was arrested on a Mississippi warrant for capital murder. An interrogation by federal law enforcement officials ended when he requested a lawyer, and he subsequently communicated with appointed counsel two or three times. Interrogation was reinitiated by a county deputy sheriff after Minnick was told that he could not refuse to talk to him, and Minnick confessed. The motion to suppress the confession was denied, and he was convicted and sentenced to death. The State Supreme Court rejected his argument that the confession was taken in violation of, inter alia, his Fifth Amendment right to counsel, reasoning that the rule of Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 — that once an accused requests counsel, officials may not reinitiate questioning "until counsel has been made available" to him — did not apply, since counsel had been made available.

Held: When counsel is requested, interrogation must cease, and officials may not reinitiate interrogation without counsel present, whether or not the accused has consulted with his attorney. In context, the requirement that counsel be "made available" to the accused refers not to the opportunity to consult with an attorney outside the interrogation room, but to the right to have the attorney present during custodial interrogation. This rule is appropriate and necessary, since a single consultation with an attorney does not remove the suspect from persistent attempts by officials to persuade him to waive his rights and from the coercive pressures that accompany custody and may increase as it is prolonged. The proposed exception is inconsistent with Edwards' purpose to protect a suspect's right to have counsel present at custodial interrogation and with Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, where the theory that the opportunity to consult with one's attorney would substantially counteract the compulsion created by custodial interrogation was specifically rejected. It also would undermine the advantages flowing from Edwards' clear and unequivocal character. Since, under respondent's formulation of the rule, Edwards' protection could be reinstated by a subsequent request for counsel, it could pass in and out of existence multiple times, a vagary that would spread confusion through the justice system and lead to a loss of respect for the underlying constitutional principle. And such an exception would leave uncertain the sort of consultation required to displace Edwards. In addition, allowing a suspect whose counsel is prompt to lose Edwards' protection while one whose counsel is dilatory would not would distort the proper conception of an attorney's duty to his client and set a course at odds with what ought to be effective representation. Since Minnick's interrogation was initiated by the police in a formal interview which he was compelled to attend, after Minnick had previously made a specific request for counsel, it was impermissible. Pp. 3-10.

551 So. 2d 77, reversed and remanded.

Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which White, Marshall, Blackmun, Stevens, and O'Connor, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Rehnquist, C. J., joined. Souter, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.