Moran v. Burbine 475 U.S. 412, 106 S.Ct. 1135, 89 L.Ed. 410 (1986)
Burbine was arrested on
suspicion of breaking and entering.
While he was sitting in
jail, the police got some evidence that led them to believe he was also
responsible for an unsolved murder in Providence a few months before.
The local police alerted the police in Providence.
Burbine's sister contacted the
Public Defender's Office, who agreed to represent Burbine.
Neither the sister nor the
public defender knew about the murder in Providence, they only thought
that Burbine was being held for breaking and entering.
The public defender called the
local police and informed them that she was Burbine's lawyer. They told
her that they would not interrogate Burbine about the break-in without her
The police neglected to
inform her of the murder investigation.
The Providence police showed
up, read Burbine a Miranda warning,
had him sign a waiver, and then got him to confess to the murder.
Burbine was unaware of the
public defender's existence, but did not request to see a lawyer.
It wasn't exactly clear who
in the police station knew about the lawyer and who didn't. The local
police may not have told the Providence police about the phone call from
The Trial Court convicted
Burbine of murder. He appealed.
Burbine argued that the
confession should be suppressed because his lawyer was not present, but
the Trial Court found that he had validly waived his privilege against
self-incrimination and his right to counsel.
The Rhode Island Supreme Court
upheld the conviction. Burbine filed a writ of habeus corpus in Federal
The Federal Trial Court upheld
the conviction. Burbine appealed.
The Federal Appellate Court
reversed. The prosecutor appealed.
The Federal Appellate Court
found that when the police failed to tell Burbine that his sister had
already gotten him lawyer, Burbine's waivers of his 5th
Amendment rights became invalid.
It is the State's burden to
establish that the waiver is knowing, intelligent, and voluntary. Did
the State meet the burden of showing knowing?
The US Supreme Court reversed
and upheld the conviction.
The US Supreme Court found
that the police's failure to inform Burbine that he had a lawyer didn't
deprive him of information essential to his ability to waive his 5th
Basically, when the police
read Burbine the Miranda warning,
he understood that he could have had a lawyer if he wanted one. By
signing the waiver, Burbine was saying that he didn't want one. Burbine
knew that a public defender would be appointed to him, and there isn't
much difference between knowing one would be appointed and one had been appointed.
Burbine's rights were the
same whether there was a lawyer waiting outside the door or not.
Nothing that happens outside the interrogation room effects what
The Court also found that a
conviction will not be reversed if
the police are "less than forthright" with the defendant during
Basically, it's ok to lie
and trick a defendant into confessing.
The Court admitted that
conveying false information to Burbine's lawyer could theoretically
violate the principle of fundamental fairness guaranteed by the 14th Amendment,
but only if such behavior "so shocks the sensibilities of civilized
society as to warrant a federal intrusion into the criminal processes of
The Court found that the
police misconduct in this case was not bad enough to warrant intrusion.
The Court felt that there
needed to be a clear, bright line rule that is easy to apply. If you
start having to relay other facts to the suspect that might influence
their decision, the line starts to get fuzzy. The police are required to
give Miranda warnings, and that's
In a dissent it was argued
that police interference between a defendant and counsel violates the Due
Process Clause of the 5th
If the police had told the
public defender that Burbine was going to be interrogated about a murder
charge that evening, she might have driven to the police station and
demanded to see her client before the interrogation began. By telling
her that Burbine wouldn't be questioned until the next day, thy
interfered with the public defender's ability to effectively provide
counsel to her client.
Burbine might have been too
dumb to know why he needed a lawyer, that's why it is important for the
lawyer to have been able to talk to him before the interrogation began.
The decision didn't address
Burbine's 6th AmendmentRight to Counsel. Technically, one could argue that Burbine
had counsel but the State was affirmatively interfering with the
attorney-client relationship and denying Burbine's right to effective counsel.
However, the 6th
Amendment traditionally is only
triggered once there has been an indictment. Burbine had not yet been