Stansbury v. California

PETITIONER:Robert Edward Stansbury
LOCATION:Pomona Police Department

DOCKET NO.: 93-5770
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1993-1994)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of California

CITATION: 511 US 318 (1994)
ARGUED: Mar 30, 1994
DECIDED: Apr 26, 1994
GRANTED: Nov 01, 1993

Aileen Bunney – on behalf of the Respondent
Robert M. Westberg – on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case

Robert Edward Stansbury, an ice cream truck driver, was taken to the Pomona Police Department for questioning as a potential witness in the investigation of the death of a 10-year-old girl. Stansbury was not a suspect in the death, and did not receive Miranda warnings, but during questioning, made a statement that put him under suspicion. After further questioning, Stansbury admitted to prior convictions for rape, kidnapping and child molestation. At this point the interrogating officer advised Stansbury of his Miranda rights and Stansbury refused to make any further statements. Stansbury requested an attorney and was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. The trial court held that Stansbury was not truly in custody and therefore not entitled to Miranda warnings until suspicion focused on him. The court refused to suppress Stansbury’s statements made prior to the warning. Stansbury was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court of California affirmed.


May a trial court determine that a criminal defendant is not “in custody” for Miranda purposes on the basis of police officers’ subjective and undisclosed conclusions that they did not consider the defendant a “suspect”?

Media for Stansbury v. California

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – March 30, 1994 in Stansbury v. California

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – April 26, 1994 in Stansbury v. California

William H. Rehnquist:

I have the opinion of the Court to announce in No. 93-5770, Stansbury against California.

For reasons set forth in a Per Curiam opinion filed with the Clerk today, the judgment of the Supreme Court of California is reversed and the case is remanded to that court.