Curbs On Questioning Suspects Without Lawyers Were “Unworkable”–Scalia


Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on questioning suspects lifts some restrictions on when defendants can be interrogated without their lawyers present, the New York Times reports. The 5-to-4 ruling overturned the court’s 1986 opinion in a Michigan case that forbade the police from interrogating a defendant once he invoked his right to counsel at an arraignment or a similar proceeding. That ruling has not only proved “unworkable,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, but its “marginal benefits are dwarfed by its substantial costs” in that some guilty defendants go free. Scalia was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito.

In an angry dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the 1986 decision, said that contrary to the majority's assertion, that decision protected “a fundamental right that the court now dishonors.” The case involved Jesse Montejo, who was sentenced to death for a 2002 the murder and robbery in Louisiana. The Obama administration, taking a position that disappointed some liberals, had argued in favor of overturning the 1986 ruling, as had 11 states that told the Supreme Court that that case was no longer relevant.

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