US Supreme Court issues 3 opinions

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Abuelhawa v. United States - In a unanimous decision authored by Justice Souter, the Court holds that using a cellphone to make a drug purchase when the crime would be only a misdemeanor does not "facilitate" a felony distribution crime.

Haywood v. Drown - in a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Stevens, the Court holds that it is unconstitutional for a state to bar all damage lawsuits brought under a federal civil rights law against prison officers or guards.  New York had allowed only a claim against the state itself in a special claims court.

Montejo v. Louisiana - In a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Scalia, the Court overrules Michigan v. Jackson concerning the rights of a criminal suspect in police custody after the appointment of counsel.

The facts:  Montejo was charged with first degree murder and the court ordered the appointment of counsel during a 72-hour hearing.  Later that day, the police read Montejo his rights under Miranda v. Arizona and he agreed to go along on a trip to locate the murder weapon.  During the trip he wrote an inculpatory letter of apology to the victim's widow.  After returning from the trip, he met his court appointed attorney for the first time.  Counsel objected to admission of the letter at trial, but it was admitted and Montejo was convicted.

The Court holds that stare decisis does not preclude reconsideration of Michigan v. Jackson.  The Court finds that Edwards v. Arizona provides enough protection for suspects who want to invoke their Miranda rights and that Jackson is not necessary to protect a defendant's rights.  The Court holds that a defendant has the right to waive his Sixth Amendment rights and that counsel need not be present or consulted when a client elects to waive those rights by speaking with the police after counsel has been appointed.  "Edwards and Jackson are meant to prevent police from badgering defendants into changing their minds about their rights, but a defendant who never asked for counsel has not yet made up his mind in the first instance."  The Court acknowledges that Miranda and Edwards guarantee Fifth Amendment rights, not Sixth Amendment rights, and apply only if the suspect is in custody, but find that Sixth Amendment rights for suspects not in custody are unnecessary because "when a defendant is not in custody, he is in control, and need only shut his door or walk away to avoid police badgering."

As for Nevada, the Court has cited to Michigan v. Jackson in two opinions but has not indicated whether it found the rule established in Jackson to be sound. The Court could hold that the protections provided for by Jackson should be recognized by our state constitution.

I initially thought that the quick fix here is for counsel to consult with the client and invoke the right to counsel at the first court appearance for all interrogations and interactions with the police or other state agents.  Such action should guarantee that the client receives the assistance of counsel at every stage of the proceedings, including questioning by police officers.  After a long, and good, discussion with Chip Siegel, I'm not sure that my initially thought on a remedy was correct.  It may be that the client will have to invoke the right to counsel at the time of the interrogation and that a blanket waiver during the first court appearance will not be sufficient, although it probably wouldn't hurt either.  Advice to the client is therefore critical in making sure that he is not interrogated by officers following the appointment of counsel.  I'll keep an eye our for analysis by others following this issue.


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This page contains a single entry by JoNell published on May 26, 2009 8:23 AM.

US Supreme Court denies cert on McConnell issue was the previous entry in this blog.

Nevada Supreme Court issues 2 opinions in civil cases is the next entry in this blog.

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