The Supreme Court today overturned a long-standing ruling that stops police from initiating questions unless a defendant’s lawyer is present, reports the Associated Press. By a 5-4 vote, the court voided the 1986 ruling in Michigan v. Jackson. In that case, the court said police may not initiate questioning of a defendant who has a lawyer or has asked for one, unless the attorney is present.
The case was brought by Jesse Jay Montejo, who was sentenced to death for murdering a Louisiana businessman in 2002. Writing for the court majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that under the Michigan opinion, police could not even ask a defendant who had been appointed a lawyer if he wanted to talk. “It would be completely unjustified to presume that a defendant’s consent to police-initiated interrogation was involuntary or coerced simply because he had previously been appointed a lawyer,” Scalia said.