In Michigan v. Jackson, 475 U.S. 625 (1986), the Supreme Court reversed two criminal convictions where--after being arrested and charged--the (indigent) defendants requested that they be represented by counsel but, before an attorney arrived, waived their Miranda rights and confessed to the crimes. This extended a prior decision interpreting the Sixth Amendment to exclude a confession obtained from a suspect not yet charged with a crime but after he asked for a lawyer. The Jackson ruling--written by John Paul Stevens, coincidentally the sole Justice remaining from the 1986 Court--found that "the reasons for prohibiting the interrogation of an uncounseled prisoner who has asked for the help of a lawyer are even stronger after he has been formally charged with an offense than before." 475 U.S. at 631.
Last Tuesday, President Obama's Solicitor General Elena Kagan, speaking for the Federal government, filed a brief urging (at 6-7) the Court to overrule Jackson:
Although the Sixth Amendment affords criminal defendants a right to counsel at certain critical pre-trial stages, the Amendment should not prevent a criminal defendant from waiving that right and answering questions from police following assertion of that right at arraignment. Jackson serves no real purpose and fits poorly with this Court’s recent precedent; although the decision only occasionally prevents federal prosecutors from obtaining appropriate convictions, even that cost outweighs the decision’s meager benefits.The issue, raised in a case called Montejo v. Louisiana (07-1529), was considered at the Court's April 24th Conference and -- ultimately -- on Monday the court decided not to address the issue.
- A few lefty bloggers have complained about the Administration's position. But there's little "buzz." Can you imagine the outpouring of outrage had the Bush DoJ advocated overruling Jackson?
- Is the Administration more concerned for the welfare of unlawful combatant detainees than American criminal defendants?