ARIZONA V. ROBERSON, 486 U. S. 675 (1988)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Arizona v. Roberson, 486 U.S. 675 (1988)

Arizona v. Roberson

No. 87-354

Argued March 29, 1988

Decided June 15, 1988

486 U.S. 675


Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U. S. 477, 451 U. S. 484-485, held that a suspect who has

"expressed his desire to deal with the police only through counsel is not subject to further interrogation by the authorities until counsel has been made available to him, unless the accused himself initiates further communication."

After being arrested at the scene of a burglary, and being advised by the arresting officer of his constitutional rights, as declared in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436, to remain silent and to have an attorney present during any interrogation, respondent replied that he "wanted a lawyer before answering any questions," which fact was duly reported in the officer's written report. Three days later, while respondent was still in custody, a different officer, unaware that respondent had earlier requested counsel who had not yet been provided, advised him of his rights and interrogated him about a different burglary, obtaining an incriminating statement concerning that crime. In the prosecution for that offense, the Arizona trial court suppressed the statement in reliance upon a State Supreme Court decision that refused to distinguish Edwards with respect to a suspect who was reinterrogated about an unrelated offense after he had requested counsel, ruling that the fact that the further interrogation in Edwards had involved the same offense was not legally significant for Fifth Amendment purposes. The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the suppression.

Held: The Edwards rule applies to bar police-initiated interrogation following a suspect's request for counsel in the context of a separate investigation. Pp. 486 U. S. 680-688.

(a) The bright-line, prophylactic Edwards rule benefits the accused and the State alike. It protects against the inherently compelling pressures of custodial interrogation suspects who feel incapable of undergoing such questioning without the advice of counsel, by creating a presumption that any subsequent waiver of the right to counsel at the authorities' behest was coercive, and not purely voluntary. Moreover, it provides clear and unequivocal guidelines that inform police and prosecutors with specificity what they may do in conducting custodial interrogation, and that inform courts under what circumstances statements obtained during such interrogation are not admissible. Pp. 486 U. S. 680-682.

(b) This Court's decisions do not compel an exception to Edwards for post-request police-initiated custodial interrogation relating to a separate

Page 486 U. S. 676

investigation. Michigan v. Mosley, 423 U. S. 96; Connecticut v. Barrett, 479 U. S. 523; Colorado v. Spring, 479 U. S. 564; and Maine v. Moulton, 474 U. S. 159, distinguished. Pp. 486 U. S. 682-685.

(c) The nature and factual setting of this case do not compel an exception to the Edwards rule. The argument that the existence of separate investigations in itself precludes the type of badgering that led to the decision in Edwards is not persuasive. It is by no means clear that police engaged in separate investigations will be any less eager than police involved in only one inquiry to question a suspect in custody. Moreover, to a suspect who has indicated his inability to cope with custodial interrogation by requesting counsel, any further interrogation without counsel will surely exacerbate whatever compulsion to speak the suspect may be feeling. The giving of fresh sets of Miranda warnings will not necessarily "reassure" a suspect who has been denied requested counsel that his rights have remained untrammeled. In fact, in a case such as this, in which three days elapsed between the unsatisfied request for counsel and the separate-offense interrogation, there is a serious risk that the mere repetition of the warnings would not overcome the presumption of coercion created by prolonged police custody. Furthermore, the fact that it may be in an uncounseled suspect's interests to know about, and give a statement concerning, the separate offense does not compel an exception to Edwards, since the suspect, having requested counsel, can determine how to deal with the separate investigations with counsel's advice, and since the police are free to inform the suspect of the facts of the second investigation, as long as they do not interrogate him, and he is free to initiate further communication. Finally, the fact that the officer who conducted respondent's second interrogation did not know that he had requested counsel cannot justify the failure to honor that request, since Edwards focuses on the state of mind of the suspect, and not of the police, and since the officer could have discovered the request simply by reading the arresting officer's report. Pp. 486 U. S. 685-688.


STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and SCALIA, JJ., joined. KENNEDY, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J.,joined, post, p. 486 U. S. 688. O'CONNOR, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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