Mincey v. Arizona

PETITIONER: Rufus Junior Mincey
LOCATION: University Medical Center

DOCKET NO.: 77-5353
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Arizona Supreme Court

CITATION: 437 US 385 (1978)
ARGUED: Feb 21, 1978
DECIDED: Jun 21, 1978
GRANTED: Oct 17, 1977

Galen H. Wilkes - for respondent
Richard Oseran - for petitioner

Facts of the case

On October 1974 Officer H organized the plan of purchase of heroin from convicted to arrest him in the moment of transfer. He arrived at his house together with nine officers, but the friend of accused prevented the entering of all them together, then H came inside alone. The shooting between H and Mincey occurred, and both were damaged, but policeman died. When other officers entered they arrested defendant and begun the search in the apartment. They passed murderer to the detective who interrogated him in the complicated health status at the hospital, refusing his asking for the attorney. Moreover, after the crime was committed two other detectives begun the investigation in his house, that was prolonged for four days despite on that they didn`t have a court warrant on this action.

Mincey was accused of murder, assault, and distribution of narcotics. The court decided that the defendant`s evidence were voluntary however he stated that they were obtained violating his constitutional rights. He also complained that the investigation was also unlawful. The district firstly and the Supreme Court of Arizona found that such search was in the framework of laws as it was caused by the fact of murder commitment.

Then the appellant filed a suit to the US Supreme Court claiming the infringement of his rights protected by the Fourth and Fourteen Amendments. He also argued that his evidence was made by him in the hospital in the almost comatose status because of that he accepted all the detective`s statements.

The case study reflects that under the judicial rulings the investigation was considered as illegal and infringed constitutional requirements and even the emergency conditions of murder didn`t cause the need for such means.

The judges concluded that Mincey`s statements breached the Miranda and using of them contradicts with the constitution, but the final decision of his guilt was not changed because it was based not only on his evidence but on other facts mostly.


1. Did the admission of evidence taken during a four-day long warrantless search of Mincey’s residence constitute an unreasonable search or seizure under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments?

2. Did the admission of Mincey’s responses to police questioning made while he was a patient in the intensive care unit of a hospital violate his privilege against self-incrimination, rights to counsel and due process under the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments?

Media for Mincey v. Arizona

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 21, 1978 in Mincey v. Arizona

Potter Stewart:

The second case in which I am authorized to announce the opinion and judgment this morning is in number 77-5353 Rufus Jr. Mincey, petitioner against the State of Arizona.

A case that is here on Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court of Arizona.

The petitioner was convicted in an Arizona Trial Court on charges of murder, assault, and three counts of narcotics offenses.

At his trial and on appeal, he contended that evidence used against him had been unlawfully seized from his apartment without a warrant and that statements used to impeach his credibility were inadmissible because they had not been made voluntarily.

The Arizona Supreme Court reversed the murder and assault convictions on state-law grounds, but affirmed the narcotics convictions rejecting both of the federal constitutional claims.

It held that the warrantless search of a homicide scene is permissible under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and that Mincey's statements were voluntary.

We granted certiorari to consider these substantial constitutional questions.

As to the first issue, we hold for the reasons discussed in some detail in the written opinion of the court that the so called murder scene exception created by the Arizona Supreme Court is inconsistent with the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments that the warrantless search of Mincey's apartment was not constitutionally permissible simply because a homicide had recently occurred there.

As to the second issue, we hold for the reasons also spelled out in the court's written opinion that Mincey's statements were not the product of his free and rational choice.

The Due process of law requires that statements obtained as these were can not be used in anyway against a defendant at his trial.

For these reasons, the judgment of the Arizona Supreme Court is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings, not inconsistent with the court's written opinion.

Mr. Justice Rehnquist has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Stewart.