Minnick v. Mississippi 498 U.S. 146, 111 S.Ct. 486, 112 L.Ed.2d 489 (1990)
Minnick and Dykes escaped from
prison and went on a rampage that left two people in Mississippi dead.
A few months later, Minnick
was arrested in California on suspicion of murder. The police brought him
to the station where he was questioned by the FBI. Minnick implicated
Dykes in the murders. Minnick then asked for a lawyer and the FBI stopped
The lawyer arrived and
Minnick had several conversations with him over the next few days.
Four days after being
arrested, the Mississippi police showed up and questioned Minnick without
his lawyer being present.
Minnick didn't want to talk,
but the Mississippi police told him that he "could not refuse."
Minnick then willingly made some incriminating statements.
At trial, Minnick made a
motion to suppress his statements to both the FBI and the Mississippi
police. The Trial Judge suppressed the FBI statement, but not the
statements to the Mississippi police.
The Trial Judge found that
Minnick had waived his previously asserted rights by answering the police
The Trial Court convicted
Minnick of murder. He appealed.
Minnick argued that the
continued questioning violated his 6th AmendmentRight to Counsel. (See Edwards
v. Arizona (451 U.S. 477 (1981)),
which held that once the accused requests counsel, officials may not
reinitiate questioning until "counsel has been made available."
The Mississippi Supreme Court
upheld the conviction. Minnick appealed.
The Mississippi Supreme
Court found that the rule in Edwards
did not apply here because counsel had been made available
The US Supreme Court
overturned the conviction.
The US Supreme Court found
that once a defendant asserts his 6th Amendment Right to Counsel, not only must the
questioning stop, but officials may not reinitiate questioning unless
that counsel is present, even after the defendant has gotten a chance to
speak with the counsel.
The Court found that just
speaking to a lawyer once doesn't end the coercive pressures that the
police can put on a suspect. Therefore, counsel needs to be present at all contact between officials and the defendant,
once the request has been made.
The Court noted that even if
Mississippi had gotten their way, a defendant could just begin every
conversation with "I want to speak with an attorney" and
questioning would have to cease anyway.
In a dissent it was argued
that a defendant can waive their right to have counsel present. There
should not be a blanket, irrebuttable presumption that anyone who speaks
to the police without a lawyer is being forced to do so. Minnick knew how
to ask for a lawyer. Since he did not do so, the Court should assume that
he decided he didn't want his counsel present, or that he was just dumb,
and the courts shouldn't make rules to compensate for criminals being
Perhaps Minnick's lawyer
should have told him that if the police want to speak with him again he
should demand to see his lawyer again.
The dissent argued that the Miranda
Warning protects ignorant people who
might not know that they have the right to remain silent. But after
meeting with counsel, a defendant should be fully informed of his rights
and understand what they should do.
Interestingly, if you assert
your right to remain silent, the police can come back later and ask you if you want to stay silent (see Michigan
v. Mosley (423 U.S. 96 (1975)).
The difference is that you
make the decision to remain silent yourself and therefore have the
ability to change your mind. But asking for a lawyer is saying that you
want help making decisions, and you can't change your mind on that
decision without the help of counsel.