Michigan v. Jackson

RESPONDENT: Robert Bernard Jackson
LOCATION: Livonia Police Station

DOCKET NO.: 84-1531
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: Michigan Supreme Court

CITATION: 475 US 625 (1986)
ARGUED: Dec 09, 1985
DECIDED: Apr 01, 1986

Brian E. Thiede - on behalf of the Petitioner
James Krogsrud - on behalf of Respondent Robert Bernard Jackson
Ronald J. Bretz - on behalf of Respondent Rudy Bladel

Facts of the case

Robert Bernard Jackson was charged with second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder. During his arraignment, Jackson requested that the court appoint him counsel. The next day, Jackson was interrogated again before he was able to communicate with his attorney. Jackson confessed during that interrogation.

In December 1978, Rudy Bladel killed three railroad employees in Michigan. Bladel was arrested shortly thereafter, the police questioned him twice but released him. Two months later, he was arrested again and agreed to talk to the police without an attorney present. During his arraignment the following day, Bladel requested counsel, and the court assigned a firm to his case. The next day, the police questioned Bladel again before the firm was able to contact him and before he was aware he had been assigned counsel. During this questioning, Bladel confessed.

In both cases, the trial courts held that the confessions, which were obtained after arraignment and before the defendants were able to meet with counsel, were properly received into evidence. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Jackson’s conviction, and he appealed. The Michigan Supreme Court consolidated Jackson and Bladel’s cases and ruled that both confessions should not have been admitted into evidence.


When a defendant requests counsel at an arraignment, are the police allowed to initiate interrogations before that defendant has had a chance to consult with the appointed counsel?

Media for Michigan v. Jackson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 09, 1985 in Michigan v. Jackson

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Thiede, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Brian E. Thiede:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

I feel compelled to, at the beginning at least, reference why it is that we are here, the underlying circumstances, and that is that Mr. Rudy Bladel, in the City of Jackson, the State of Michigan, killed three people who happened to work for the railroad because he didn't like the railroad, not because he had any complaint with them, but they just happened to be railroad employees.

Mr. Jackson in the City or County of Wayne killed a Mr. Perry because Mr. Perry's wife didn't like him any more but wanted to collect the insurance money We have some very serious cases here, serious on the facts and serious to the people of the State of Michigan because of that.

Despite the fact that the motivations of the killings in these cases are different, they do present a common legal proposition.

That proposition was ruled on by the Michigan Supreme Court where they created what they thought to be an analogous rule to Edwards versus Arizona.

Simply stated, the Michigan Supreme Court held that if a defendant, while at his initial appearance before a magistrate who has no jurisdiction to accept a final plea in the case, whose only job is ministerial, in other words to advise a defendant of the charge against him, set bond if bond is appropriate, and to advise him of his right to counsel and to get the administrative process going if he's indigent, the Michigan Supreme Court said if the defendant asked for appointed counsel at that stage, the police are forevermore precluded from initiating interrogation of that defendant.

Reading the cases of this Court, it seems that there are two bases upon which this Court has excluded confessions.

One is, when there is some impingement on a constitutional right such as the Fifth Amendment setting or Henry and Brewer and cases like that where it's the Sixth Amendment, or in the alternative, where the confession itself is unreliable.

I don't think either of those factors exist in this case.

There is simply no reason for the rule established by the Michigan Supreme Court.

As Justice White noted in, I believe Selum versus Stooms, the follow-up case on Edwards, in discussing its retroactivity, the Edwards rule has very little to do with the reliability of a confession.

It hasn't a real great deal to do with the truth telling process, because there remains at all times, apart from any per se rule, the ability of the defense to challenge the voluntariness, and that of the confession.

So, the per se rule does not change that.

It does not preclude the defendant from having an opportunity to challenge the reliability of the statement itself.

Edwards, however, did have the salutory effect of giving the defendant some security in that while asking for counsel during police interrogation, the police could no longer return and re-initiate interrogation.

That seems to be a logical result.

There seems to be a logical flow between a request for counsel during interrogation and the secession of interrogation, and a per se rule that the police cannot re-initiate interrogation until counsel has been provided.

I see no logical connection between the request for counsel such as we had in these cases where the Judge advises a defendant, you have a right to have counsel represent you at a preliminary examination, and other judicial proceedings thereafter.

John Paul Stevens:

May I ask at this point, supposing the judge... at that point there had been a lawyer sitting in the courtroom and he said,

"I'll appoint Mr. Smith as your lawyer. "

Smith said,

"I'm too busy to talk to you now. "

"I'll see you in three or four days. "

Would the rule the apply, or not?

Brian E. Thiede:

I think the Michigan Supreme Court's rule would apply.

John Paul Stevens:

I mean, under your view should--

Brian E. Thiede:

No, I don't think so.

John Paul Stevens:

--You would say, then the police could still initiate interrogation?

Brian E. Thiede: