Missouri v. Seibert

RESPONDENT:Patrice Seibert
LOCATION:Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

DOCKET NO.: 02-1371
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Missouri

CITATION: 542 US 600 (2004)
GRANTED: May 19, 2003
ARGUED: Dec 09, 2003
DECIDED: Jun 28, 2004

Amy M. Bartholow – argued the cause for Respondent
Irving L. Gornstein – argued the cause for Petitioner, on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae
Karen K. Mitchell – argued the cause for Petitioner

Facts of the case

Patrice Seibert was convicted of second degree murder for the death of 17 -year-old Donald Rector, who died in a fire set in the mobile home where he lived with Seibert. Several days after the fire, Seibert was interogated by a police officer. The officer initially withheld her Miranda warnings, hoping to get a confession from her first. Once she had confessed, the officer took a short break from questioning, then read her her Miranda rights and resumed questioning her after she waived those rights. He prompted her to restate the confession that she had made earlier. Based on this second, Mirandized confession, Seibert was convicted.

She appealed, charging that the officer’s intentional use of an un-Mirandized interrogation to get the initial confession made the later confession, though it occurred after she had waived her Miranda rights, inadmissable. The prosecution cited Oregon v. Elstad to argue that an initial, un-Mirandized confession did not make a defendant incapable of voluntarily waiving her Miranda rights and confessing later.

The Supreme Court of Missouri agreed with Seibert, overturning the conviction.


Does the rule from Oregon v. Elstad that a defendant who has made an un- Mirandized confession may later waive her Miranda rights to make a second confession (admissible in court) still apply when the initial confession is the result of an intentional decision by a police officer to withhold her Miranda warnings?

Media for Missouri v. Seibert

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – December 09, 2003 in Missouri v. Seibert

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 28, 2004 in Missouri v. Seibert

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 02-1371, Missouri against Seibert will be announced by Justice Souter.

David H. Souter:

This case comes to us on writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Missouri.

The police arrested the respondent, Seibert, on a charge of murder and brought her to an interview room in the station house without giving her warnings required by the Miranda case about her right to remain silent and have the help of a lawyer.

An officer interrogated her for 30 or 40 minutes and elucidated a full confession.

After a 20-minute break, the officer recited Miranda warnings and obtained a signed waiver of rights.

He then resumed questioning and confronted Seibert with the statement she had given before the warnings.

She repeated her prior answers.

When she was charged with first degree murder, she sought to exclude her statement.

It was taken in violation of the Miranda warning requirement.

The officer testified that in giving no Miranda warnings at the start of interrogation, he had a used a technique in which he had been trained, question first, get a confession, then give Miranda warnings and question again until the suspect repeats the earlier confession.

The Trial Court admitted the statement given after the midstream Miranda recitation.

The jury convicted Seibert of second degree murder.

The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed.

The Supreme Court of Missouri however, reversed on the ground that Seibert’s statement should not have been admitted into evidence because it had been taken in violation of Miranda.

We granted certiorari and in opinions filed today with the Clerk of Court, we affirm.

The object of Miranda is to inform a suspect of a genuine choice to speak to the police or remain silent.

By contrast, the object of the interrogation tactic at issue here is to render Miranda warnings ineffective by giving them only after a confession.

The object is to get an admissible confession the suspect would not make if he understood his rights at the outset.

And Miranda warnings given in these circumstances are likely to be ineffective to consider the facts of this case.

The unwarned interrogation was conducted in the station house and the questioning was systematic and exhaustive.

The warned phase of the questioning proceeded in the same place after only a short break.

The warning that anything you say can and will be used against you could lead into a reasonable inference that what the suspect has just said will be used with subsequent silence being of no avail.

And the police did not counter this possibility by advising Seibert that her prior statements could not be used against her.

Quite the opposite, the officer’s questions referred to the confession already given.

These circumstances so challenge the efficacy of the warnings that a reasonable person in the suspect’s shoes would not have understood that she had a choice to talk or remain silent.

Because we cannot reasonably conclude that the warnings given could serve Miranda’s purpose, Seibert’s statements are inadmissible.

Justice Breyer has filed a concurring opinion; Justice Kennedy has filed an opinion concurring the judgment; Justice O’Connor has filed a dissenting opinion in which the Chief Justice, Justice Scalia, and Justice Thomas joined.