Minnick v. Mississippi

PETITIONER: Robert S. Minnick
RESPONDENT: Mississippi
LOCATION: Clark County Jail

DOCKET NO.: 89-6332
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1990-1991)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Mississippi

CITATION: 498 US 146 (1990)
ARGUED: Oct 03, 1990
DECIDED: Dec 03, 1990
GRANTED: Apr 23, 1990

Floyd Abrams - on behalf of the Petitioner
Marvin L. White, Jr. - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

Robert S. Minnick and James Dyess escaped from the Clark County Jail. The next day, they broke into a mobile home to search for weapons. While in the home, the owner returned with a friend and the friend’s infant son. Minnick and Dyess shot and killed the two adults and tied up two young women who arrived later. Minnick and Dyess fled to Mexico, but after a falling out, Minnick went to California alone where police arrested him on a warrant for the Mississippi murders.

After the arrest, two FBI officers came to interview Minnick at the San Diego Jail. Minnick refused, asking the officers to “Come back Monday when I have a lawyer.” Minnick did meet with an appointed lawyer on two or three occasions. The next Monday, the deputy sheriff of Clark County came to question Minnick. Prison officials told Minnick he “could not refuse” to speak to the sheriff. The deputy sheriff advised Minnick of his rights and Minnick refused to sign a waiver form. Minnick then confessed to one of the murders, saying that Dyess forced him to shoot. At trial, Minnick moved to suppress those statements, but the court denied the motion, reasoning that Edwards v Arizona only required counsel to be made available to an accused. Minnick argued that he was entitled to have counsel present at all questioning. The jury found Minnick guilty of capital murder and sentenced him to death. The Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed, holding that Minnick’s Fifth Amendment right to counsel was satisfied because he had met with counsel.


Does Edwards v Arizona require counsel to be present with an accused during any questioning after that accused invokes his right to counsel?

Media for Minnick v. Mississippi

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 03, 1990 in Minnick v. Mississippi

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - December 03, 1990 in Minnick v. Mississippi

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 89-6332, Minnick against Mississippi will be announced by Justice Kennedy.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

This is the Court's opinion in Minnick versus Mississippi.

The case is before us as a capital case on certiorari to the Supreme Court of the State of Mississippi.

In Edwards versus Arizona, we held that once a suspect in police custody invokes his Fifth Amendment right to counsel, he may not be questioned further unless his lawyer is present or unless the suspect himself initiates the conversation.

This is true even if the suspect is given new Miranda warnings before he makes the statement.

Today's case presents the question whether the Edwards' bar to further interrogation applies after the suspect has conferred with his counsel.

Petitioner, Robert Minnick, was arrested in California for two murders committed in Mississippi.

Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed Minnick in a San Diego jail.

The interview ended when the petitioner asked the questioning cease until he had a lawyer present, a right identified by this Court in Miranda versus Arizona.

Between Saturday, the day of the FBI interview, and the following Monday, Minnick conferred with the lawyer on two or three occasions.

Then on Monday, a Mississippi Deputy Sheriff again interrogated Minnick.

Minnick did not initiate the interview and, in fact, testified that he jailers told him he could not refuse to talk to the Deputy.

His lawyer was not present during questioning and Minnick made incriminating statements that were used against him in his Mississippi murder trial.

He was convicted and sentenced to death.

The Mississippi Supreme Court determined that Edwards does not apply once the suspect has consulted with an attorney and then response to questions after new Miranda warnings.

We now reverse.

Our cases interpret the Edwards rule to bar police-initiated interrogation unless the accused has counsel with him at the time of questioning.

The exception proposed by the State of Mississippi is inconsistent with Edwards' purpose to protect the suspect's right to have counsel present at custodial interrogation.

The exception would undermine the advantages flowing from Edwards' clear and unequivocal character.

Under the formulation of the rule proposed by the State of Mississippi, the protection of Edwards could pass in and out of existence multiple times prior to arraignment.

Moreover, consultation is not a precise concept where it may encompass variations from a telephone call to say that the attorney is on route to see the client to a hurried interchange between the attorney and the client in a detention facility corridor, to a lengthy in-person conference.

The inquiries necessary to determine whether a particular consultation was sufficient to permit further interrogation could interfere with the attorney-client privilege.

In addition, the proposal would have the disturbing consequence that a suspect whose counsel is prompt would lose the protection of Edwards, while one whose counsel is a dilatory would not.

We hold, then, that when counsel is requested, interrogation must cease and officials may not re-interrogate without counsel present whether or not the accused has had consultations with his attorney.

Justice Scalia has filed a dissenting opinion in which the Chief Justice joins;

Justice Souter took no part in the consideration of decision of the case.