The Brennan Center filed a supplemental amicus brief with the Supreme Court on April 14th, in Montejo v. Louisiana, a case testing the ambit of the protection afforded by the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The brief was written in response to request from the Court directing the parties in the case to file supplemental briefs addressing the question: “Should Michigan v. Jackson, 475 U.S. 625 (1986), be overruled?”
In Michigan v. Jackson, the Supreme Court held that once a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel has attached, and he or she invokes that right, any subsequent waiver obtained pursuant to police-initiated interrogation without counsel present is presumed involuntary. The Montejo v. Louisiana case concerns a Louisiana high court decision in which the court attempted to carve out an exception to the prophylactic rule set forth in Jackson, and construe a defendant’s failure when appointed an attorney to make an affirmative statement or gesture accepting that attorney as a rejection of the full protections that the Sixth Amendment affords.
After oral argument in the case was heard by the Supreme Court in January 2009, the Court ordered supplemental briefing as to whether it should reverse the twenty-three year old Jackson precedent, an issue not raised by petitioner or respondent in their briefs.
With the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Louisiana, the Southern Center for Human Rights, and attorneys at Covington & Burling, the Brennan Center has urged the Supreme Court in a supplemental amicus brief to uphold Michigan v. Jackson. The brief presents empirical evidence that the concerns undergirding the Jackson rule are magnified where particularly vulnerable defendants are concerned, including the mentally and developmentally disabled, juveniles, those lacking education, those with substance addiction, and the indigent. These defendants are especially vulnerable to police suggestion that counsel is unnecessary, many such defendants lack the capacity to appreciate the importance of counsel, and many exhibit characteristics that make them prone to give false confessions. If Jackson were overruled, incidents of false confessions would likely increase. And while serious harm would be done to our criminal justice system as a whole, the most severe and tragic consequences would befall the most vulnerable defendants.
The Brennan Center filed an initial amicus brief with the Court in November, 2008, with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Louisiana, and attorneys at Covington & Burling.