Illinois v. Perkins
496 U.S. 292, 110 S. Ct. 2394, 110 L. Ed.2d 243 (1990)

  • Perkins was in jail on suspicion for murder. His cellmate (and prison snitch), Charlton, told police that Perkins had confessed to him.
  • The police put an undercover officer, Parisi, in the jail cell, under the guise of being another prisoner. The three talked about escaping, and Parisi directly asked Perkins if he’d ever killed anyone. Perkins confessed to his murder in detail.
  • At trial, the trial judge suppressed the confession. The prosecutor appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that Miranda v. Arizona (384 U.S. 486 (1966)) prohibited all undercover contacts with incarcerated suspects that are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response.
  • The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The prosecutor appealed.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed and found that the confession was admissible.
    • The US Supreme Court found that Miranda Warnings was not required when the suspect is unaware that he is speaking to a law enforcement officer and gives a voluntary statement.
    • The Court found that the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination requires a Miranda Warning any time the suspect is in a coercive situation where he might feel compelled to incriminate himself. In this case, Perkins thought he was talking to another crook, and so could not have believed that law enforcement was compelling him to make incriminating statements.
      • It could not have counted as an interrogation because Perkins didn’t think he was talking to the police.
      • Btw, Perkins original statement to Charlton was always admissible, but Charlton wasn’t as credible as a police officer, so the prosecution would have rather used Parisi’s testimony.
  • In a concurrence it was argued that just because Perkins didn’t feel compelled by the police, that doesn’t mean that he didn’t feel compelled. He might have just been trying to sound mean to get the respect of his cellmates. If true, that would mean that Perkins was compelled by a police tactic, even if he didn’t know it was a police tactic.
  • In a dissent, it was argued that the holding in Miranda was not limited to police coercion, but with any police tactics designed to get a suspect to make incriminating statements without full awareness of their constitutional rights.
    • Compare this to the subjective standard vs. objective standard arguments made with respect to entrapment.
  • The basic rule laid out by this case is that is that if there is no direct police coercion, (aka a coercive atmosphere), then there is no requirement for a Miranda Warning.