North Carolina v. Butler

PETITIONER: North Carolina
RESPONDENT: Willie Thomas Butler
LOCATION: Butler Residence

DOCKET NO.: 78-354
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: North Carolina Supreme Court

CITATION: 441 US 369 (1979)
ARGUED: Mar 27, 1979
DECIDED: Apr 24, 1979
GRANTED: Dec 11, 1978

ADVOCATES:
Lester V. Chalmers, Jr. - for petitioner
R. Gene Braswell - for respondent

Facts of the case

An FBI officer read Willie Thomas Butler his rights under Miranda v Arizona after arresting him on a federal warrant. At Butler’s interrogation, the officer gave Butler an “Advice of Rights” form and asked him to sign it to indicate that he understood his rights. Butler refused to sign the waiver portion of the form, but indicated that he would like to talk to the officer. Butler did not ask for an attorney. Butler proceeded to make incriminating statements, which were introduced as evidence at trial. Butler moved to suppress the evidence, but the trial court denied the motion. The court held that Butler had effectively waived his right to an attorney when he spoke with the FBI officer after indicating that he understood his rights. The jury found Butler guilty of kidnapping, armed robbery, and felonious assault. On appeal, the Supreme Court of North Carolina reversed the convictions and ordered a new trial, holding that statements made under interrogation are not admissible without an express waiver of rights.

Question

Is a defendant’s self-incriminating testimony inadmissible when there is no express waiver of Miranda rights?

Media for North Carolina v. Butler

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 27, 1979 in North Carolina v. Butler

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 24, 1979 in North Carolina v. Butler

Potter Stewart:

I also have another announcement this morning that I'm authorized to make on behalf of the Court.

This is the case of North Carolina against Butler here on writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

In conflict with the view of every other court that has considered the issue, the North Carolina Supreme Court has held in this case that under this Court’s decision in Miranda against Arizona, no statement of a person under custodial interrogation may be admitted in evidence against him unless at the time the statement was made, he explicitly waived the right to the presence of a lawyer.

We granted certiorari to consider whether this per se rule reflects a proper understanding of the Miranda decision.

For the reasons set out in an opinion of the Court filed today, the judgment is vacated and the case is remanded to North Carolina Supreme Court for further proceedings.

Mr. Justice Blackmun while joining the Court opinion has filed a concurring statement.

Mr. Justice Brennan has filed a dissenting opinion which Mr. Justice Marshall and Mr. Justice Stevens have joined.

Mr. Justice Powell took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Stewart.