Missouri v. Seibert
542 U.S. 600, 124 S.Ct. 2601, 159 L.Ed.2d 643 (2004)

  • The police suspected that Seibert had started a fire that killed Rector. They sent in a policeman to interrogate her without reading her the Miranda Warning. She confessed, and the policeman left.
  • 20 minutes later, the police sent in a second policeman who read her the Miranda Warning (which she waived) and asked her to repeat her confession, which she did.
  • The Trial Court convicted Seibert of murder. She appealed.
    • The prosecutor introduced the second, post-Miranda confession into evidence (but not the first).
    • Seibert argued that the second confession was only the product of the first, pre-Miranda confession, and thus should be inadmissible as “fruit of the poisonous tree.”
    • The prosecutor argued that Seibert’s initial confession did not make her incapable of voluntarily waiving her rights and confessing again. She could have shut up.
  • The Missouri Supreme Court overturned the conviction. The prosecutor appealed.
    • The Missouri Supreme Court found that the second confession was inadmissible because the police only asked her to confess based on her pre-Miranda statements.
  • The US Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The US Supreme Court found that that the post-Miranda confession is only admissible if the Miranda Warning (and the length of time between interrogations) is sufficient to give the suspect the reasonable belief that she has the right not to speak with the police.
      • The Court found that, “by any objective measure, it is likely that if the interrogators employ the technique of withholding warnings until after the interrogation succeeds in eliciting a confession, the warnings will be ineffective in preparing the suspect for successive interrogations, close in time and similar in content.”
      • “Upon hearing warnings just after making a confession, a suspect would hardly think he had a genuine right to remain silent, let alone persist in so believing once the police began to lead him over the same ground.”
    • In a concurring opinion it was suggested that this ruling should be limited to situations where the police are intentionally using the two-stage interrogation method to get around the Miranda Warning, not situations where the police questioning was unintentional.
  • In a dissent, it was argued that the police should be allowed to continue to use the question-first, warn-later approach, so long as they could show that the first confession was voluntary and that the “taint” of the first confession had worn off.
  • Basically, the case said that when pre-Miranda questioning occurs, the police must give enough time between interrogations, and be emphatic enough about the Miranda Warning to give the suspect confidence that they can remain silent if they so chose to.