United States v. Henry

United States v. Henry Case Brief

United States Supreme Court
447 U.S. 264 (1980)

ISSUE: Was it a violation of D's 6th Amdt. right to counsel when the Govt. paid a fellow inmate to listen to D and report to the Govt. if D made any incriminating statements while imprisoned after he was indicted and D's atty was not present?
HOLDING: Yes, by intentionally creating a situation likely to induce D to make incriminating statements without the assistance of counsel, the Govt. violated D's 6th Amdt. right to counsel.
FACTS:
  • A bank was robbed, and a W was able to identify D as one of the participants
  • The getaway car was found and in it a rent receipt and a lease were found
  • The rent receipt was traced to D, and D was then arrested, indicted, and held in jail awaiting trial
  • Govt. agents contacted one Nichols, another inmate, to ask him to listen around D to see if D made any statements
  • Nichols and D were moved to the same cell, and D made incriminating statements to Nichols even though agents told Nichols not to initiate questioning w/ D
PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
  • D was convicted of robbery, and his conviction was affirmed and cert. denied
  • D then moved to vacate his sentence after learning that Nichols was a paid govt. informant -- denied
  • Ct. App. reversed and remanded for an evidentiary hearing whether Nichols was a paid govt. informant
  • Dist. Ct. denied D's motion again, concluding that Nichols's testimony didn't violate D's 6th Amdt. right to counsel
  • Ct. App. reversed and remanded citing Massiah
REASONING:
  • Deliberately elicited info: Ct. App.'s determination that Nichols deliberately used his position to secure incriminating info from D when counsel was not present and that his actions are attributable to the Govt. are supported by the record
    • According to Nichols's own testimony he was not a passive listener, and D's statements were the product of conversation
    • Not like 4th & 5th Amdt. issues where there's no issue so long as D was unaware that the other person was an informant
  • No waiver: Since D didn't even know that Nichols was an informant, D cannot be said to have waived his right to counsel by talking with him

OTHER RELEVANT CASES:

  • Maine v. Moulton: Police turned D's co-defendant against him, and the co-defendant wore a wire to a meeting, which D initiated, not the co-defendant
    • HELD, case not distinguishable fromMassiah even though D himself initiated the meeting
    • Knowing exploitation by the State of an opportunity to obtain incriminating statements is also a breach of D's right to counsel

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