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Law School Case Brief

Minnick v. Mississippi - 498 U.S. 146, 111 S. Ct. 486 (1990)


The presence of counsel would be the adequate protective device necessary to make the process of police interrogation conform to the dictates of the Fifth Amendment privilege. His presence would insure that statements made in the government-established atmosphere are not the product of compulsion. Authorities may not initiate questioning of the accused in counsel's absence. Preserving the integrity of an accused's choice to communicate with police only through counsel is the essence of Edwards and its progeny. 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.


Petitioner Minnick was arrested on a Mississippi warrant for capital murder. The interrogation by federal law enforcement officials ended when Minnick 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 Minnick 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, 68 L. Ed. 2d 378, 101 S. Ct. 1880 -- 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. The United States Supreme Court granted Minnick's petition for certiorari review.


Did Minnick’s Fifth Amendment protection cease once he consulted with his attorney?




The United States Supreme Court found that that Minnick’s Fifth Amendment protection was not terminated or suspended by consultation with counsel. 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, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 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 that he was compelled to attend, after Minnick had previously made a specific request for counsel, it was impermissible.

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