465 U.S. 638 (1984), 81-2149, Solem v. Stumes

Docket Nº:No. 81-2149.
Citation:465 U.S. 638, 104 S.Ct. 1338, 79 L.Ed.2d 579
Party Name:Herman SOLEM, Warden, Petitioner v. Norman STUMES.
Case Date:February 29, 1984
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 638

465 U.S. 638 (1984)

104 S.Ct. 1338, 79 L.Ed.2d 579

Herman SOLEM, Warden, Petitioner


Norman STUMES.

No. 81-2149.

United States Supreme Court.

Feb. 29, 1984

Argued Nov. 28, 1983.

[104 S.Ct. 1338] Syllabus[*]


Respondent, a homicide suspect, when arrested on unrelated charges, made incriminating statements to the police about [104 S.Ct. 1339] the homicide after the police had twice renewed interrogation despite respondent's having invoked his right to counsel. Respondent was charged with murder and, after the South Dakota trial court refused to suppress the statements made to the police, was convicted of first-degree manslaughter. The South Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. Respondent then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in Federal District Court, which denied the writ. While respondent's appeal was pending, this Court in Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 101 S.Ct. 1880, 68 L.Ed.2d 378, held that once a suspect has invoked the right to counsel, any subsequent conversation must be initiated by him. Applying Edwards to this case, the Court of Appeals found that the police had acted unconstitutionally.

Held: Edwards should not be applied retroactively, and therefore the Court of Appeals erred in evaluating the constitutionality of the police conduct in this case under the standards set out in Edwards. Pp. 1341-1346.

(a) The criteria guiding resolution of whether a new constitutional decision should be applied retroactively implicate (1) the purpose to be served by the new standards, (2) the extent law enforcement authorities relied on the old standards, and (3) the effect on the administration of justice of a retroactive application of the new standards. Pp. 1341-1342.

(b) Complete retroactive effect is most appropriate where a new constitutional principle is designed to enhance the accuracy of criminal trials. Edwards has little to do with the truthfinding function of the criminal trial. The fact that a suspect has requested a lawyer does not mean that statements he makes in response to subsequent police questioning are likely to be inaccurate. Moreover, in those situations where renewed interrogation raises significant doubt as to the voluntariness and reliability of the statements and, therefore, the accuracy of the outcome at trial, it is likely that suppression could be achieved without reliance on the prophylactic rule adopted in Edwards. Pp. 1342-1343.

(c) It would be unreasonable to expect law enforcement authorities to have conducted themselves in accordance with Edwards' bright-line rule prior to its announcement. Edwards did not overrule any prior decision

Page 639

or transform standard practice, but it did establish a new test for when the waiver of right to counsel would be acceptable once the suspect had invoked that right. It cannot be said that the Edwards decision had been "clearly" or "distinctly" foreshadowed. Pp. 1343-1345.

(d) The retroactive application of Edwards would have a disruptive effect on the administration of justice. In a significant number of cases, an inquiry, hampered by problems of lost evidence, faulty memory, and missing witnesses, would be required to assess the substantiality of any Edwards claim. P. 1345.

671 F.2d 1150 (8th Cir.1982), reversed and remanded.


Mark V. Meierhenry, Attorney General of South Dakota, argued the cause and filed briefs for petitioner.

Timothy J. McGreevy, by appointment of the Court, 464 U.S. 808, argued the cause and filed a brief for respondent.

Mark V. Meierhenry, Atty. Gen., Pierre, S.D., for petitioner.

Timothy J. McGreevy, Sioux Falls, S.D., for respondent.


Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question in this case is whether Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 101 S.Ct. 1880, 68 L.Ed.2d 378 (1981), should be applied retroactively.


Respondent, Norman Stumes, was a suspect in the death of Joyce Hoff in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. On September 27, 1973, Stumes was arrested in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on pending perjury and felony check charges. He had not yet been charged with Hoff's death. The following morning he spoke by phone with his attorney in Sioux Falls, who told him not to make any statements before returning to South Dakota. Three Sioux Falls police officers, Skadsen, Green, and Hendrick, went to Green Bay to bring [104 S.Ct. 1340] Stumes back. They first spoke with him on the morning of November 1. After being read his Miranda rights, Stumes said that he understood them and did not object to speaking with police without his attorney present. After an hour and a half of conversation about the homicide,

Page 640

Green asked Stumes if he would be willing to take a lie detector test. Stumes answered that "that is a question I'd rather not answer until I talk to [my attorney]." At that point the officers stopped questioning.

The officers returned that afternoon and recommenced questioning without giving Miranda warnings. Stumes admitted he had been in Hoff's apartment the night of the killing and that they had had intercourse, but he denied having had anything to do with her death. When asked if the death had been intentional or accidental, Stumes said that it had been accidental. He then stated that "I would rather not talk about it any more at this time until I talk to my attorney, and after that I'll give you a full statement in regards to her death." Questioning thereupon ceased.

The next morning Stumes and the three officers set out, by car, on the 500-mile trip to Sioux Falls. Stumes was given his Miranda warnings at the beginning of the trip, and was asked whether he would be willing to talk. He shrugged and nodded affirmatively, and there was then some further questioning. For most of the trip, the conversation was about unrelated matters, though occasionally the subject of Hoff's death came up. Late in the afternoon, after a 10- or 15-minute silence in the car, respondent had what he referred to as "a little conflict with my emotions" and "made the statement that I couldn't understand why anybody would want to kill Joyce and that the taking of a human life is so useless." Green told him he would feel better if he "got it off his chest." Stumes then recounted striking and strangling Hoff after she had said she would tell someone that she and Stumes had slept together. Green asked if Stumes would give the police a statement when they reached Sioux Falls, noting that his attorney would undoubtedly advise him not to. Stumes agreed to give a statement, stating "I don't give a damn what he says. I'm doing anything I feel like, and I'll talk to anybody I want to." Stumes and the officers reached Sioux Falls at about 6:45 in the evening. Shortly after being

Page 641

placed in a cell, Stumes called for Skadsen, asking him to "tell them that I didn't mean to kill her, that it was an accident--that I'm not a vicious killer."

Stumes was charged with murder; the trial court refused to suppress any of his statements to the police; and the jury found him guilty of first-degree manslaughter and sentenced him to life imprisonment. On direct appeal, the State Supreme Court remanded for a determination whether Stumes' statements had been voluntary. The trial court found that they had; the conviction was accordingly "automatically affirmed."

Stumes then filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota. The District Court denied the writ after an evidentiary hearing, 511 F.Supp. 1312. It concluded that Stumes had knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his right to counsel. Miranda did not require that all questioning must cease forever once a suspect has requested counsel. Given the totality of the circumstances, the questioning during the trip to South Dakota was proper. 1

While Stumes' appeal was pending, we held that once a suspect has invoked the right to counsel, any subsequent conversation must be initiated by him. Edwards v. Arizona, supra. Applying Edwards to [104 S.Ct. 1341] this case, the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit found that the police had acted unconstitutionally in twice renewing interrogation after Stumes had invoked his right to counsel. 2

Page 642

Petitioner sought a writ of certiorari on three questions: whether the conduct of the police in this case violated Edwards, whether the District Court adequately deferred to the state court's fact-finding, and whether Edwards should be applied retroactively. We granted certiorari only as to the third. 463 U.S. 1228, 103 S.Ct. 3568, 77 L.Ed.2d 1409 (1983). We therefore assume for present purposes that the conduct at issue here violated Edwards. We need not decide whether the police also violated Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), a question not considered by the Court of Appeals. Because we conclude that the court erred in applying Edwards to this case, we reverse and remand for reconsideration under pre-Edwards law.


As a rule, judicial decisions apply "retroactively." Robinson v. Neil, 409 U.S. 505, 507-508, 93 S.Ct. 876, 877-878, 35 L.Ed.2d 29 (1973). Indeed, a legal system based on precedent has a built-in presumption of retroactivity. Nonetheless, retroactive application is not compelled, constitutionally or otherwise. Great Northern R. Co. v. Sunburst Oil & Refining Co., 287 U.S. 358, 364, 53 S.Ct. 145, 148, 77 L.Ed. 360 (1932). Since Linkletter v. Walker, 381 U.S. 618, 85 S.Ct. 1731, 14 L.Ed.2d 601 (1965), which held that Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 81 S.Ct. 1684, 6 L.Ed.2d 1081 (1961), applied only to defendants whose convictions were not yet final when Mapp was decided, we have recognized that "the interest of justice" and "the exigencies of the situation" may argue against imposing a new constitutional decision retroactively. 381 U.S., at 628, 85 S.Ct., at 1737. The basic principles of retroactivity in...

To continue reading