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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Henry - 447 U.S. 264, 100 S. Ct. 2183 (1980)

Rule:

By intentionally creating a situation likely to induce a defendant to make incriminating statements without the assistance of counsel, the government violates the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel. 

Facts:

After Defendant Billy Gale Henry was indicted for armed robbery of a bank, and while he was in jail pending trial, Government agents contacted a confidential informant (CI), an inmate confined in the same cellblock as Henry. An agent instructed the CI to be alert to any statements made by federal prisoners but not to initiate conversations with or question Henry regarding the charges against him. After the CI had been released from jail, he reported to the agent that he and Henry had engaged in a conversation in which that Henry made incriminating statements about the robbery. The CI was paid for furnishing the information. At Henry's trial, which resulted in a conviction, the CI testified about the incriminating statements that Henry had made to him. Henry moved to vacate his sentence on the ground that the introduction of the CI's testimony interfered with and violated his Sixth Amendment right to the assistance of counsel. The District Court denied the motion, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Government's actions impaired Henry's Sixth Amendment rights under Massiah v. United States, 377 U.S. 201.

Issue:

Was Henry's Sixth Amendment right to assistance of counsel violated by the admission at trial of incriminating statements made by Henry to his cellmate, an undisclosed government informant, after indictment and while Henry was in custody?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The United States Supreme Court held that Henry's Sixth Amendment right to counsel had attached at the time he made the statements. Further, the Court held that the government's specific mention of Henry to the undercover informant, who was paid on a contingency fee basis, constituted the type of affirmative steps to secure incriminating information from Henry outside the presence of his counsel prohibited by the Sixth Amendment.

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