Kuhlmann v. Wilson Case Brief

Why is the case important?

An informer planted in a suspect’s jail cell obtained incriminating information from a suspect after being told not to start the conversation, but to listen for incriminating information.

Facts of the case


If the police plant an informer with a jailed suspect and the informer asks no questions, are any incriminating statements the suspect makes to the informer admissible?


Yes. Reverse the judgment overturning the district court’s denial of the defendant’s habeas petition.
The Sixth Amendment is not violated when the state obtains incriminating statements from the accused by luck or happenstance after the right to counsel has attached.


“According to the United States Supreme Court, 28 U.S.C.S. § 2244(b) governed successive petitions for habeas corpus relief filed by state prisoners. The Court noted that section made no reference to the “”ends of justice,”” and provided that the federal courts need not entertain subsequent applications from state prisoners unless the application alleged and was predicated on a factual or other ground not adjudicated on the prior application, and unless the court was satisfied that the applicant has not on the earlier application deliberately withheld the newly asserted ground or otherwise abused the writ. Moreover, the Court held that the ends of justice required consideration of a successive petition for habeas corpus where the prisoner made a colorable showing of factual innocence, which respondent could not do, and that U.S. Const. amend. VI did not forbid the admission of statements made to an informant placed in close proximity who made no effort to stimulate conversations about the crime. Judgment reversing denial of habeas relief was thereby reversed, and the case was remanded.”

  • Case Brief: 1986
  • Petitioner: Kuhlmann
  • Respondent: Wilson
  • Decided by: Burger Court

Citation: 477 US 436 (1986)
Argued: Jan 14, 1986
Decided: Jun 26, 1986