will statements obtained contrary to the sixth amendment still come back to haunt you?

Posted in Uncategorized by Ryan Locke on January 22, 2009

Maybe, says Ryan.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Kansas v. Ventris today, a case about a jailhouse informant and the Sixth Amendment.  Prepare for extreme legal geekery.

Here’s what happened.  A guy — we’ll call him soon-to-be-dead guy — confronted defendant and his girlfriend at other guy’s house.  Soon-to-be-dead guy was shot and killed.  Defendant claims his girlfriend did it; girlfriend claims defendant did it.  Time for a trial.

Fast forward to defendant sitting in jail.  He’s sharing a cell with informant guy.  Informant guy was specifically recruited by the police to listen for incriminating evidence from defendant — in other words, informant guy is acting as the police’s agent.  Defendant indeed tells informant guy that he was the one who shot soon-to-be-dead guy.

Now we’re at trial.  Defendant is called to the stand and says hey, of course I didn’t shoot soon-to-be-dead guy.  My girlfriend did it!

Bam!  That’s a lie!  Now here’s what creates this entire mess: Defendant’s prior confession was obtained without defendant waiving his Sixth Amendment right to counsel in all interrogations.  Defendant thinks that makes the statement inadmissible for any reason.  The State thinks that makes the statement inadmissible for normal uses, but still okay for impeachment (where the rules for introducing stuff are much much looser because the sole purpose is to combat perjury).

Tough question, right?  On one hand, the Sixth Amendment is one of our most esteemed Constitutional rights.  On the other hand, supressing statements like the one here is basically giving the defendant free reign to perjure.  It’ll be interesting to see how the Supreme Court rules on this one.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: