Law School Case Brief
Arizona v. Mauro - 481 U.S. 520, 107 S. Ct. 1931 (1987)
Confessions remain a proper element in law enforcement. Any statement given freely and voluntarily without any compelling influences is, of course, admissible in evidence. The fundamental import of the privilege while an individual is in custody is not whether he is allowed to talk to the police without the benefit of warnings and counsel, but whether he can be interrogated. Admission of volunteered statements of any kind is not barred by U.S. Const. amend. V.
In Arizona, a person suspected of killing his son was taken to a police station, placed in custody, and advised of his Miranda rights, whereupon the suspect told the police that he did not wish to make any more statements without having a lawyer present, and police questioning ceased. After the suspect's wife asked to see her husband, the police permitted such a meeting in the presence of a police officer, who placed a tape recorder in plain sight on a desk and tape-recorded the subsequent incriminating statements of the suspect to his wife. At trial, an Arizona court refused to suppress the tape-recorded statements on the ground that the recording had not been a product of police interrogation in violation of the suspect's Miranda rights; moreover, the trial court expressed the view that the police actions had not been a ruse or subterfuge as an indirect means of avoiding the dictates of Miranda. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Arizona reversed the suspect's conviction for murder and child abuse, and expressed the view that the admission into evidence, at trial, of the tape-recorded conversation between the suspect and his wife violated the suspect's right not to incriminate himself under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, because, in allowing the conversation to commence, the police did indirectly what they could not do directly--interrogate the suspect. Arizona filed a petition for certiorari review.
Did the admission into evidence of the tape-recorded conversation between the suspect and his wife violate the suspect’s right not to incriminate himself under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution?
The United States Supreme Court held that the self-incrimination privilege of the Fifth Amendment did not forbid the use, at the suspect's criminal trial, of the suspect's incriminating statements because, under the circumstances, the suspect had not been subjected to such compelling influences, psychological ploys, or direct questioning as would constitute "interrogation," or the functional equivalent of interrogation, for Fifth Amendment purposes.
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