Moran v. Burbine
475 U.S. 412, 106 S.Ct. 1135, 89 L.Ed. 410 (1986)

  • Burbine was arrested on suspicion of breaking and entering.
    • While he was sitting in jail, the police got some evidence that led them to believe he was also responsible for an unsolved murder in Providence a few months before. The local police alerted the police in Providence.
  • Burbine’s sister contacted the Public Defender’s Office, who agreed to represent Burbine.
    • Neither the sister nor the public defender knew about the murder in Providence, they only thought that Burbine was being held for breaking and entering.
  • The public defender called the local police and informed them that she was Burbine’s lawyer. They told her that they would not interrogate Burbine about the break-in without her presence.
    • The police neglected to inform her of the murder investigation.
  • The Providence police showed up, read Burbine a Miranda warning, had him sign a waiver, and then got him to confess to the murder.
    • Burbine was unaware of the public defender’s existence, but did not request to see a lawyer.
    • It wasn’t exactly clear who in the police station knew about the lawyer and who didn’t. The local police may not have told the Providence police about the phone call from Burbine’s lawyer.
  • The Trial Court convicted Burbine of murder. He appealed.
    • Burbine argued that the confession should be suppressed because his lawyer was not present, but the Trial Court found that he had validly waived his privilege against self-incrimination and his right to counsel.
  • The Rhode Island Supreme Court upheld the conviction. Burbine filed a writ of habeus corpus in Federal Court.
  • The Federal Trial Court upheld the conviction. Burbine appealed.
  • The Federal Appellate Court reversed. The prosecutor appealed.
    • The Federal Appellate Court found that when the police failed to tell Burbine that his sister had already gotten him lawyer, Burbine’s waivers of his 5th Amendment rights became invalid.
      • It is the State’s burden to establish that the waiver is knowing, intelligent, and voluntary. Did the State meet the burden of showing knowing?
  • The US Supreme Court reversed and upheld the conviction.
    • The US Supreme Court found that the police’s failure to inform Burbine that he had a lawyer didn’t deprive him of information essential to his ability to waive his 5th Amendment rights.
      • Basically, when the police read Burbine the Miranda warning, he understood that he could have had a lawyer if he wanted one. By signing the waiver, Burbine was saying that he didn’t want one. Burbine knew that a public defender would be appointed to him, and there isn’t much difference between knowing one would be appointed and one had been appointed.
        • Burbine’s rights were the same whether there was a lawyer waiting outside the door or not. Nothing that happens outside the interrogation room effects what happens inside.
    • The Court also found that a conviction will not be reversed if the police are “less than forthright” with the defendant during interrogation.
      • Basically, it’s ok to lie and trick a defendant into confessing.
    • The Court admitted that conveying false information to Burbine’s lawyer could theoretically violate the principle of fundamental fairness guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, but only if such behavior “so shocks the sensibilities of civilized society as to warrant a federal intrusion into the criminal processes of the States.”
      • The Court found that the police misconduct in this case was not bad enough to warrant intrusion.
    • The Court felt that there needed to be a clear, bright line rule that is easy to apply. If you start having to relay other facts to the suspect that might influence their decision, the line starts to get fuzzy. The police are required to give Miranda warnings, and that’s all.
  • In a dissent it was argued that police interference between a defendant and counsel violates the Due Process Clause of the 5th Amendment.
    • If the police had told the public defender that Burbine was going to be interrogated about a murder charge that evening, she might have driven to the police station and demanded to see her client before the interrogation began. By telling her that Burbine wouldn’t be questioned until the next day, thy interfered with the public defender’s ability to effectively provide counsel to her client.
      • Burbine might have been too dumb to know why he needed a lawyer, that’s why it is important for the lawyer to have been able to talk to him before the interrogation began.
  • The decision didn’t address Burbine’s 6th Amendment Right to Counsel. Technically, one could argue that Burbine had counsel but the State was affirmatively interfering with the attorney-client relationship and denying Burbine’s right to effective counsel.
    • However, the 6th Amendment traditionally is only triggered once there has been an indictment. Burbine had not yet been indicted.