Kuhlmann v. Wilson

Kuhlmann v. Wilson Case Brief

United States Supreme Court
477 U.S. 436 (1986)

ISSUE: Did police "deliberate elicit" incriminating statements from D in violation of D's 6th Amdt. right to counsel when police placed an informant in D's cell who merely listened to D?
HOLDING: No.
FACTS:
  • D and 2 others robbed a taxicab company and shot the night dispatcher
  • D was seen running away from the scene clutching loose money
  • D then turned himself into police and was arraigned and placed in a cell
  • Police had solicited D's cellmate, Lee, to merely listen to D and report back any info
  • D looked out the window, saw the taxicab co., and then began making statements to Lee -- Lee only said "didn't sound too good"
PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
  • D moved to suppress statements as a violation of his 6th Amdt. right to counsel
  • Trial Ct. denied motion, concluding that Lee "at no time asked any questions with respect to the crime" and D's statements were therefore "spontaneous" and "unsolicited"
  • Ct. App. reversed
REASONING:
  • Massiah line of cases: Primary concern of Massiah line of cases is secret interrogation by investigatory techniques that are the equivalent of direct police interrogation
    • D must show that the police and their informant took some action beyond merely passively listening
  • No 6th Amdt. violation: Ct. App. was incorrect in finding that the police's actions here violated D's 6th Amdt. right to counsel
    • Lee at no time asked any questions but only listened to D's spontaneous and unsolicited statements
COMMENTS:
  • Rule: Police and their informant must take some action beyond merely listening that was designed deliberately to elicit incriminating statements

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