Massiah v. United States

PETITIONER: Winston Massiah
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 377 US 201 (1964)
ARGUED: Mar 03, 1964
DECIDED: May 18, 1964
GRANTED: Jun 10, 1963

Archibald Cox - for the respondent
Robert J. Carluccio - for the petitioner

Facts of the case

The defendant Winston Massiah was accused in distribution of narcotics, he used his right to the attorney, didn`t considered his guilt. The court released him on bail, during he was discharged, once time he had meeting with one codefendant without participation of advocate. This person was agent for government with purpose to inform about the committed crime. He also gave his permission to police to insert a radio transmitter under the seat in his car. Massiah had no knowledges or assumptions about it.

The another governmental agent was located not far from them and listen the conversation that he heard via the transmitter connections. In the process of talking the defendant had made few compromising comments regarding his suspicion in crime. Furthermore, on the next trial hearing the agent who listened their dialog in the car, rendered his testimonies concerned the incriminating information. The jury ordered the rulings that considered Massiah guilt. After its appellation the judgement was not revised and remained without changes.

The defendant filed a suit to the US Supreme Court claiming that his right protected by the Sixth Amendment were infringed because of the absence of attorney after the start of the proceeding. He also stated that his statements said in the car could not be considered as his voluntary evidences.

The case brief concludes that the Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed, holding that the statements made by the defendant outside the presence of his attorney must be suppressed, further known as Massah rule. This requirement was provided in accordance with the Sixth Amendment rights to advocate and fair proceeding.

The case study explains the rule implemented by this decision that the any testimonies of the defendant should be made in the presence of his counsel after the opening of the trial process.


Are a defendant’s incriminating statements made without the presence of counsel after a criminal proceeding has begun admissible as evidence?

May a government agent testify to defendant’s incriminating statements that the agent overheard, via an informer with an electronic recording device, without the knowledge of defendant, when the informer does not testify at trial?

Media for Massiah v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 03, 1964 in Massiah v. United States

Earl Warren:

-- Massiah, Petitioner, versus United States.

Mr. Carluccio.

Robert J. Carluccio:

Mr. Chief Justice and Associate Justices of this Honorable Court.

As a preparatory remark, I would like to express my gratitude on behalf of my client, Winston Massiah, for the right to present this case.

I know there are many more momentous cases, money wise but I think, the -- I wish to thank the Court particularly for the cooperation they have assisted me in having the briefs printed in view of the fact that my client was incarcerated and indigent.

I feel that it's in the finest traditions of our free country and it's -- and in the finest traditions in its concern with the rights of individual citizens.

Thank you, Your Honor.

Before going into the law, I think it's necessary in this case to deal with the facts.

And in dealing with the facts in this case I think there are three dates which are very important.

Excuse me.

The first date which is of prime importance, which I think we should commit to memory is May 6, 1958 because on May 6, 1958, Winston Massiah, the defendant, appellant, petitioner here was arrested.

He was arrested for a crime of smuggling, smuggling a package of narcotics across on a ship without having paid the tax.

That's basically the indictment.

Massiah was a seaman?

Robert J. Carluccio:

Massiah was a seaman, yes, Your Honor, an able-bodied seaman, that was his rank.

On that date, he was arrested for a crime which allegedly occurred on that date again, May 6, 1958.

Shortly thereafter, he was taken to custody, he was questioned by the federal officers, he -- he said nothing as the testimony showed.

However, he retained counsel shortly thereafter, not myself, but a Mr. (Inaudible).

And short time later, a May -- on May 28, 1958, he was indicted.

Around that time, I was retained by -- Mr. Massiah substituted for -- for Mr. (Inaudible).

And I remained as counsel in that -- in this case from then May 9th -- May 28th, 1958 to the present.

At the time, he retained counsel.

He was still in jail, still incarcerated.

Subsequently, after motion to reduce the bail, the bail was lowered and he was out on bail.

At the time that I was retained, I spoke -- the first person to whom I spoke within the case was an agent Finbarr Murphy, a very key figure as you will see later on.

My retainer and my appearance was on the record from approximately the 28th of May, 1958 to the present.

What happened then?

Nothing happened for a long time.

There was no prosecution.

There were delays.