McNeil v. Wisconsin

LOCATION:Milwaukee County Jail

DOCKET NO.: 90-5319
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1990-1991)
LOWER COURT: Wisconsin Supreme Court

CITATION: 501 US 171 (1991)
ARGUED: Feb 25, 1991 / Feb 26, 1991
DECIDED: Jun 13, 1991

David J. Becker – Assistant Attorney General of Wisconsin, argued the cause for respondent
Gary M. Luck – argued the cause for petitioner
Stephen L. Nightingale – argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging affirmance

Facts of the case

When arrested for armed robbery, Paul McNeil did not initially invoke his Miranda right to counsel provided by the Fifth Amendment. However, he had a public defender represent him at a pretrial hearing at a county court in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After the hearing, sheriffs asked him about his involvement in a unrelated set of crimes, including murder. The sheriffs informed McNeil of his Miranda rights again, but he signed a waiver authorizing his testimony. His answers incriminated him for the crimes and he was charged in a state trial court. He unsuccessfully petitioned the court to invalidate his testimony as evidence. A jury convicted him and sentenced him to 60 years in prison. He contended that having the public defender represent him invoked his Miranda rights, which were later violated. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against him.


Does the accused’s invocation of the Sixth Amendment’s provision of legal counsel for one charge also invoke the Fifth Amendment’s right to counsel for unrelated offenses charged later?

Media for McNeil v. Wisconsin

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – February 25, 1991 in McNeil v. Wisconsin

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 13, 1991 in McNeil v. Wisconsin

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 90-5319, McNeil against Wisconsin will be announced by Justice Scalia.

Antonin Scalia:

Petitioner here, Paul McNeil, was charged with armed robbery in West Allis, Wisconsin.

At his bail hearing, a public defender was appointed to represent him.

While he was in jail on that charge, McNeil was approached by police about an unrelated crime, a murder in Caledonia, Wisconsin.

Before beginning the questioning, the police advised McNeil of his Miranda rights which he expressly waived.

He then proceeded to make statements incriminating himself in the Caledonia murder and was subsequently charged with that crime.

The Trial Court ruled McNeil’s statements admissible and he was convicted.

On appeal, McNeil argued that his request for a public defender at the bail hearing on the West Allis armed robbery charge should be construed as an invocation of his Miranda right to counsel which under this Court’s precedents would automatically render invalid his subsequent express waiver of his Miranda rights.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected that claim.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we affirm that judgment.

An accused’s invocation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel during a judicial proceeding does not constitute an invocation of the right to counsel that this Court derived in Miranda from the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee against compelled self-incrimination.

Justice Stevens has filed a dissent which Justice Marshall and Justice Blackmun have joined.