The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Montejo v. Louisiana has been called an assault on the attorney-client relationship by criminal lawyers in Arizona and will greatly affect criminal lawyers in Arizona. Under Montejo officers may now interrogate defendants in the absence of counsel, even after charges have been brought and counsel has been retained or appointed, as long as the defendant waives his or her rights under Miranda.
Montejo, a 5-4 split decision, now overrules the precedent of Michigan v. Jackson, which once held that once a defendant requests the services of criminal lawyers in Arizona at an initial appearance in court, officers may not initiate any interrogation. This Article will examine Montejo and what criminal lawyers in Arizona can do in its aftermath to protect clients’ Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The most important action that criminal lawyers in Arizona can take is to make sure their clients expressly assert their right to counsel by advising them to sign a formal “Assertion of Rights” form. The use of such a form should become a regular part of criminal lawyers in Arizona practice in the federal and state courts.
The Montejo Ruling
Jesse Montejo was arrested on charges of murder, and the court appointed an attorney to represent him at his preliminary hearing. The attorney was not present, however, and before he met with Montejo police visited Montejo at prison. Police asked Montejo to take ride with them and help them find the murder weapon. While the counsel waited for Montejo at the prison, police drove Montejo around and encouraged him to write a letter to the victim’s wife expressing remorse for victim’s murder. Once the letter was completed, police returned Montejo to the prison where he met with his attorney. Montejo was ultimately convicted and sentenced to death.
Montejo’s attorney was incensed that the officers had removed his client for interrogation in his absence. The Supreme Court of Louisiana rejected the attorney’s argument that the letter should be suppressed under Jackson, reasoning that Montejo has not requested counsel but was instead appointed counsel, which will have a drastic of on criminal lawyers in Arizona. Thus the Louisiana Supreme Court concluded that Jackson prophylactic rule barring any police officer-initiated interrogation once a defense counsel has appeared in court and requested counsel did not apply.
The Supreme Court agreed with Montejo that Louisiana’s approach was not workable and would create an arbitrary distinction between a defendant who requests appointment of counsel and a defendant for whom counsel is appointed without any request. However, the Court, after ordering a supplemental briefing on whether the case of Jackson should be overruled, concluded that the protection the case of Jackson provides is unnecessary in light of other existing protections. This ruling is sure to affect the way that criminal lawyers in Arizona will defend their clients.
The crux of Montejo’s reasoning in overruling the case of Jackson is that the anti-badgering rule can be triggered only by an express statement made by the defendant requesting the presence of counsel during an interrogation. Merely accepting the appointment of defense counsel or even requesting the appointment of defense counsel is insufficient to show a desire to not speak with police officers without counsel present. This means that defendants must clearly request the services of criminal lawyers in Arizona.
About the Author
David Michael Cantor is an AV rated (the highest possible rating) lawyer and a Certified Criminal Law Specialist per the Arizona Board of Legal Specialization. For more information about an Arizona Criminal Lawyer, visit our site.