Brewer v. Williams 430 U.S. 387, 97 S.Ct. 1232, 51 L.Ed.2d 424 (1977))
Williams was an escaped mental
patient in Des Moines. After a little girl went missing, a witness
reported that they had seen Williams carrying a suspicious bundle that
might have contained the girl. A warrant was issued for his arrest.
Williams turned himself in in
Davenport and was given a Miranda Warning. He conferred with his lawyer in Des Moines (McKnight) by phone,
and with his lawyer in Davenport (Kelly).
A Des Moines policeman
(Leaming) was sent to pick up Williams and deliver him back to Des Moines.
Leaming was told by both Kelly and McKnight that he was not to be
questioned during the drive. Williams understood this as well.
The police did not allow
Kelly to accompany Williams on the drive.
Williams said that he would
'tell the whole story' after he
got to Des Moines and consulted with McKnight.
During the drive, Leaming
mused that he hoped they found the girl's body before it started snowing,
and how convenient it would be for them to just stop right now and look
for it. He repeatedly told Williams that he did not want Williams to
answer in any way, just "think about it."
This became known as the
famous "Christian Burial Speech."
Leaming lied and told
Williams that the police had a pretty good idea of where the body was.
Williams thought about it for
a while, and then 'voluntarily' spoke up and directed Leaming to the body
(and some other evidence).
The Trial Court convicted
Williams of murder. He appealed.
Williams argued that the
evidence should be inadmissible because he had improperly questioned by
Leaming. However the Trial Judge allowed the confession to be admitted.
The Trial Judge found that
although an agreement had been made to not question Williams, he had
voluntarily waived his rights by speaking up.
The Iowa Supreme Court upheld
the conviction. Williams appealed.
The Federal Trial Court (on a
habeus corpus petition), overturned the conviction. The prosecutor
The Federal Trial Court
found that the evidence has been improperly admitted. Specifically they
Williams had been denied
his constitutional right to counsel.
Williams has been denied
his Miranda Warning.
Williams' comments had been
involuntarily made due to excessive coercion.
The Federal Appellate Court affirmed.
The prosecutor appealed.
The US Supreme Court affirmed.
The US Supreme Court based
their decision solely on the 6th Amendmentright to counsel.
There is a case to be made
that Leaming violated Williams' 5th Amendment rights. But the Court chose not to address
See Rhode Island v.
Innis (446 U.S. 291 (1980)).
Under Innis and the 5th Amendment, it is only interrogation when an objective
policeman would think that the comments could elicit an incriminating
Here, under the 6th
Amendment it is subjective
as to whether Leaming specifically intentionally deliberately tried to
elicit an incriminating response.
The Court looked to Massiah
v. United States (377 U.S. 201
(1964)) and found that once adversarial proceedings have commenced against
an individual, he has the right to legal representation when the
government interrogates him.
Once the right to
counsel attaches, it is important
for the lawyer to be there for all important proceedings. Otherwise
counsel can't be effective. Giving a confession under custodial
interrogation is important because once you confess, it is very
difficult to get acquitted.
The Court noted that while
you could argue that Williams had waived his right to remain silent by
talking, nothing he did or said could be interpreted as having waived his
right to counsel.
The Court noted that it is
possible to waive your right to counsel, but Williams had clearly not done so. He consistently
requested counsel at every state of his arrest and transport.
In a concurrence it was argued
that the purpose of the decision was to ensure good police behavior, and
you shouldn't lose sight of that just because Williams was a dangerous
It was noted that there was
enough other evidence to convict Williams anyway, so he wasn't going to
be found innocent on retrial.
Because of 'fruit of the
poisonous tree' on remand Williams tried to get the girl's body excluded.
It came back up to the US Supreme Court which allowed the body to be
entered into evidence because of the inevitable discovery exception to the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine.
The inevitable discovery
exception says that since they
police would have certainly found the body anyway, the defendant should
not 'reap a bounty' by having it excluded
In three dissents it was
argued that Williams had voluntarily waived his right to counsel by speaking up. He was advised by two lawyers
and given multiple Miranda Warnings. How could his statement not be considered a voluntary waiver?
The dissent also argued that
an obviously guilty dangerous pervert shouldn't be set free just because
the police did not do everything in a constitutionally proper manner.
Basically, the exclusionary rule
should be reevaluated in light of a totality of the
circumstances approach between the
cost to society and the cost the defendant.
The dissent also argued that
Lemming's statements should not have been considered an 'interrogation',
and even if they were, they could be considered an exception to the rule
because Lemming's purpose was not solely to obtain incriminating
evidence, but to find the (possibly alive) girl.
Btw, when this case was being
argued, opponents of the Miranda Warning pushed very hard in amicus briefs to get the requirement
overturned. But the Court based their ruling on the 6th
Amendment, and didn't bother mentioning the Miranda Warning issue very much.