Minnick v. Mississippi
498 U.S. 146, 111 S.Ct. 486, 112 L.Ed.2d 489 (1990)

  • Minnick and Dykes escaped from prison and went on a rampage that left two people in Mississippi dead.
  • A few months later, Minnick was arrested in California on suspicion of murder. The police brought him to the station where he was questioned by the FBI. Minnick implicated Dykes in the murders. Minnick then asked for a lawyer and the FBI stopped asking questions.
    • The lawyer arrived and Minnick had several conversations with him over the next few days.
  • Four days after being arrested, the Mississippi police showed up and questioned Minnick without his lawyer being present.
    • Minnick didn’t want to talk, but the Mississippi police told him that he “could not refuse.” Minnick then willingly made some incriminating statements.
  • At trial, Minnick made a motion to suppress his statements to both the FBI and the Mississippi police. The Trial Judge suppressed the FBI statement, but not the statements to the Mississippi police.
    • The Trial Judge found that Minnick had waived his previously asserted rights by answering the police questions.
  • The Trial Court convicted Minnick of murder. He appealed.
    • Minnick argued that the continued questioning violated his 6th Amendment Right to Counsel. (See Edwards v. Arizona (451 U.S. 477 (1981)), which held that once the accused requests counsel, officials may not reinitiate questioning until “counsel has been made available.”
  • The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the conviction. Minnick appealed.
    • The Mississippi Supreme Court found that the rule in Edwards did not apply here because counsel had been made available to Minnick.
  • The US Supreme Court overturned the conviction.
    • The US Supreme Court found that once a defendant asserts his 6th Amendment Right to Counsel, not only must the questioning stop, but officials may not reinitiate questioning unless that counsel is present, even after the defendant has gotten a chance to speak with the counsel.
    • The Court found that just speaking to a lawyer once doesn’t end the coercive pressures that the police can put on a suspect. Therefore, counsel needs to be present at all contact between officials and the defendant, once the request has been made.
    • The Court noted that even if Mississippi had gotten their way, a defendant could just begin every conversation with “I want to speak with an attorney” and questioning would have to cease anyway.
  • In a dissent it was argued that a defendant can waive their right to have counsel present. There should not be a blanket, irrebuttable presumption that anyone who speaks to the police without a lawyer is being forced to do so. Minnick knew how to ask for a lawyer. Since he did not do so, the Court should assume that he decided he didn’t want his counsel present, or that he was just dumb, and the courts shouldn’t make rules to compensate for criminals being dumb.
    • Perhaps Minnick’s lawyer should have told him that if the police want to speak with him again he should demand to see his lawyer again.
    • The dissent argued that the Miranda Warning protects ignorant people who might not know that they have the right to remain silent. But after meeting with counsel, a defendant should be fully informed of his rights and understand what they should do.
  • Interestingly, if you assert your right to remain silent, the police can come back later and ask you if you want to stay silent (see Michigan v. Mosley (423 U.S. 96 (1975)).
    • The difference is that you make the decision to remain silent yourself and therefore have the ability to change your mind. But asking for a lawyer is saying that you want help making decisions, and you can’t change your mind on that decision without the help of counsel.