Massiah v. United States 377 U.S. 201, 84 S. Ct. 1199, 12 L. Ed.2d 246 (1964)
Massiah was indicted for drug
charges. He got a lawyer, pled not guilty, and was freed on bail.
The police got Massiah's
codefendant, Colson, to cooperate. He invited Massiah over to talk, and
the police secretly recorded the conversation. Colson got Massiah to say
incriminating things, which the prosecution attempted to introduce at
The Trial Court convicted
Massiah of drug charges. He appealed.
The Appellate Court upheld the
conviction. Massiah appealed.
The US Supreme Court
overturned the conviction.
The US Supreme Court found
that Massiah was denied 6th Amendment protections when his own incriminating words
were used against him at trial, when they had been deliberately elicited
from him after he had been indicted and in the absence of counsel.
Basically, this case said that
once criminal proceedings have begun, the government cannot bypass the
defendant's lawyer and try to elicit statements from the defendant.
The idea is that the 6th
Amendment bars interrogating people
after they've been indicted, unless their lawyer is present (or they
waive the right). Secretly taping a person's private conversation can be
considered to be a surreptitious and indirect interrogation.
That's technically an ex
parte contact, which is again the
Rules of Professional Responsibility.
In a dissent it was argued
that Massiah was not prevented from consulting with his lawyer, and in
fact did consult with his lawyer. Perhaps the lawyer should have warned
him not to say incriminating things to people because the police might be
There was no evidence that
Massiah was being coerced or that his admissions were involuntary.
If Massiah told someone that
he did it, and that person later
went to the police, then Massiah's admission would be admissible
(remember Evidence class?)
The basic point of this case
is that if you confess before trial, that admission of guilt makes a
conviction an almost foregone conclusion. That makes defense counsel
irrelevant. So the suspect is not given effective counsel, because there is no way he can win the case.
That's a violation of the 6th Amendment Right to
Prior to this case,
confessions had been thrown out on the grounds that they were involuntary
and therefore unreliable. This case extended the doctrines to even