The ratio behind the procedural requirements for the admissibility of statements in custodial investigation is generally to protect the people’s constitutionally guaranteed rights. The 5th amendment, for one, guarantees the right of people against self-incrimination. Meanwhile, the 6th and 14th amendment guarantee the people’s right to counsel as well as their right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusations against them. From these rights afforded by the US Constitution, the procedural rule on custodial investigation that a person must be “warned of their right to remain silent; that any statement he does make may be used against him; and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed (Miranda v. Arizona, 1966)” is derived. In the following two cases, the application (or non-application) of this procedural rule will be examined.
In Escobedo v. Illinois (1964), a 22-y.o. man (petitioner) was arrested and investigated for allegedly being involved in a fatal shooting that happened more than a week earlier. While in custody, petitioner repeatedly sought communication with his lawyer but he was not allowed by the police officers. This is despite the fact that the lawyer was within the premises of the headquarters and was in the same way asking that he be allowed to talk to his client. Similarly, the lawyer was not allowed to see the petitioner because of a supposed necessity to complete the questioning and despite having requested and complained to several officers in the hierarchy of police. During the course of the investigation, the petitioner and his attorney were never given an opportunity to consult notwithstanding the repeated requests of both.
It is undisputed that during the investigation, one officer who is said to have come from the petitioner’s neighborhood, conferred with the petitioner and assured the latter that he (and his sister) would be easily released if he testified against another suspect. Subsequently, the petitioner made statements that implicated himself in the murder. The trial court convicted the petitioner which decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision and held that the petitioner’s incriminating statements were not admissible at the trial as it was made without a counsel and without being advised of his right to remain silent.
In Spano v. New York (1959), the petitioner was indicted for murder and was subjected to 8 hours of persistent and continuous questioning by police officers and the assistant prosecutor. This questioning was done after the petitioner’s repeated requests to consult his counsel and after repeated denials of such requests. Apparently, the petitioner was steadfast in his refusal to answer questions in accordance with his lawyer’s previous instructions. The petitioner was convicted and sentenced to death after an admission made during the course of the investigation. The admission was made after a childhood friend of the petitioner who was then a low-rank officer was ordered to tell the petitioner that the latter was causing him his job, and to play on the petitioner’s sympathies.
The Supreme Court reversed this decision, saying that the confession made during the investigation was in no way voluntary, being made due to official pressure, fatigue and falsely aroused sympathy, and thus, a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
In both cases, the Court upheld the procedural rule that statements will be considered inadmissible as evidence during trial if made without the presence or advice of a counsel. The difference between Escobedo (1964) and Spano (1959) lies on the fact that in the former, the petitioner was interrogated before being formally indicted. The inadmissibility of the statement in Spano (1959) is supported by Massiah v. US (1964) which states that “a Constitution which guarantees a defendant the aid of counsel at . . . trial could surely vouchsafe no less to an indicted defendant under interrogation by the police in a completely extrajudicial proceeding. Anything less . . . might deny a defendant `effective representation by counsel at the only stage legal aid and advice would help him.”
However, the fact that the petitioner in Escobedo (1964) was not formally indicted before interrogation does not make a difference because after having requested and after being denied the opportunity to consult his counsel, the investigation had been stripped off of its general nature and the petitioner had become the accused in the interrogation which purpose was to force him to confess his guilt.
The inadmissibility of the statement in this case was further supported by the fact that the police officers failed to inform the petitioner of his absolute right to remain silent. The guiding hand of the counsel is especially crucial during interrogation as whatever the result of such interrogation would surely affect the result of the trial.
In Spano (1959), the Court implied that a statement made without the aid of the counsel, may be admissible if made voluntarily. This however was not the case in Spano because although the petitioner’s admission had the appearance of voluntariness as no physical force was exerted by the officials, the petitioner was not motivated by his sheer desire to confess guilt but by the prevarications made by his officer-friend that targeted his sympathies. In addition, the circumstances surrounding the investigation, particularly the fact that the interrogation was “persistent and continuous” lasting for 8 hours from evening until the almost sunrise may cause fatigue to play its part.
Similar to Escobedo (1964), there is the officers’ clear intent to extract a confession of guilt from the petitioner, given that the interrogation was made after the jury has pronounced that there is sufficient cause to require the petitioner to face trial and after a witness testified to the petitioner’s participation to the shooting. The interrogation was therefore concerned with securing incriminating statements that would convict the petitioner.
The fact that there are evidence other than the petitioner’s admission that could are sufficient to convict the petitioner is of no import because the admission made by the petitioner, found in this case to be involuntary was used (Payne v. Arkansas, 1958).
Escobedo v. Illinois Spano v. New York Synopsis Escobedo was accused and interrogated in relation to a shooting. During the investigation, he repeatedly requested for his counsel but such requests were repeatedly denied. He was convicted of murder after an incriminating statement made during the investigation. Spano was interrogated for murder. During investigation, he steadfastly refused to answer questions according to the instructions of his counsel. His repeated requests to consult with his counsel were also denied. After being told by his “officer-friend” that the latter’s job is in danger because of his refusal, and after a whole night of persistent questioning by the officers, he made an admission of guilt. Ruling The right to a counsel is essential even prior to indictment if the investigation is stripped off of its general nature and starts to focus on a particular suspect to elicit incriminating statements. An admission is not voluntary and therefore inadmissible as evidence if overborne by official pressure, fatigue and falsely aroused sympathy. Legal Requirements right to a counsel/advice of a counsel warning to the accused on right to remain silent and that statements made may be used as evidence against him right to a counsel/advice of a counsel in case of admission, such admission must be voluntarily made Applicability of Legal Requirements Both requirements are applicable in this case as both were not satisfied. The petitioner was not informed of his right to remain silent and was not given the opportunity to consult with his counsel. The statements made by the petitioner during the investigation, although incriminating, could not be used as evidence during the trial. The admission made by the petitioner during the investigation was not admissible because he was deprived of his right to consult with his counsel. In addition, the admission was said to be not voluntarily made as it was motivated by false sympathies caused by a plot made by the investigators as well as the circumstances causing fatigue on the part of the petitioner.
Escobedo v. Illinois. (1964). 378 US 478. No. 615.
Massiah v. United States. (1964). 377 US 201. No. 199.
Miranda v. Arizona. (1965). 384 US 436. No. 759.
Payne v. Arkansas. (1958). 356 US 560. No. 99.
Spano v. New York. (1958). 360 US 315. No. 582.