LOCATION: Florida Department of Labor
DOCKET NO.: 85-899
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: Connecticut Supreme Court
CITATION: 479 US 523 (1987)
ARGUED: Dec 09, 1986
DECIDED: Jan 27, 1987
Charles A. Rothfeld - as amicus curiae, supporting petitioner
Julia Dicocco Dewey - on behalf of the petitioner
Robert L. Genuario - on behalf of the respondent
Facts of the case
Media for Connecticut v. Barrett
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 09, 1986 in Connecticut v. Barrett
William H. Rehnquist:
Ms. Dewey, you may proceed whenever you are ready.
Julia Dicocco Dewey:
Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
The respondent in this case, William Barrett, was arrested on a charge of sexual assault.
Shortly after his arrest, within a matter of hours, he was given four separate sets of Miranda warnings.
He told police officers that he had no problem talking about the incident, but he would not give a written statement without an attorney.
The question presented in this case is whether an oral statement given by the respondent is admissible as evidence in the subsequent criminal trial.
As I just indicated, Mr. Barrett was arrested on a charge of sexual assault.
At the time of his arrest he was warned in accordance with Miranda versus Arizona.
He was then transported to a nearly town.
Upon arriving he was again given his Miranda warnings.
He received a third set of Miranda warnings prior to the actual interrogation.
The Connecticut trial court and the Connecticut Supreme Court both found that the defendant stated he had no problem talking to the officers but he would not give a written statement without an attorney.
Mr. Barrett then proceeded to give a narrative account of the incident, admitting that he and his co-defendant had intercourse with their victim.
He claimed, however, that this was a consensual act, despite the fact that during the act he had in his hands a screwdriver.
The police had unsuccessfully attempted to tape record the defendant's first statement.
In an effort to get a valid tape recording of this statement, they once again advised Mr. Barrett of his Miranda rights.
Again the defendant repeated that he had no problem talking with the officers but he would not give a written statement in the absence of counsel.
The defendant then proceeded to give a narrative account paralleling the first account.
At trial the defendant contended that his two statements were involuntary.
However, at the conclusion of a suppression hearing the trial court held that the defendant had made a knowing, voluntary and intelligent waiver of his right to remain silent.
Therefore, the two statements were both introduced.
On appeal, Mr. Barrett again contended that the statements were involuntary, but he added the contention that the statements were taken in violation of Edwards versus Arizona.
The trial court's factual finding was basically not challenged by the Connecticut Supreme Court.
Instead, that Court held that the defendant's refusal to give a written statement without an attorney present was a clear request for the assistance of counsel to protect his Fifth Amendment rights.
In reaching this conclusion the Connecticut Supreme Court never considered the fact that the defendant had not invoked his right to remain silent for purposes of that oral interrogation.
Thus, the Connecticut Supreme Court misconstrued this Court's holding in Miranda and in Edwards.
This Court has consistently made it clear that the purpose of the Miranda warnings is to dispel that coercion that is inherent in police interrogation.
Additionally, Miranda is designed to assure that a suspect in police custody is adequately advised of his Fifth Amendment rights prior to giving any statements.
Custodial interrogation was viewed as inherently coercive.
However, under the Miranda holdings, holdings, once a suspect has been adequately advised, it is possible for a trial court to find that that suspect did in fact waive his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and that waiver was an act of free will.