494 U.S. 407 (1990), 88-6677, Butler v. McKellar

Docket Nº:No. 88-6677
Citation:494 U.S. 407, 110 S.Ct. 1212, 108 L.Ed.2d 347, 58 U.S.L.W. 4294
Party Name:Butler v. McKellar
Case Date:March 05, 1990
Court:United States Supreme Court

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494 U.S. 407 (1990)

110 S.Ct. 1212, 108 L.Ed.2d 347, 58 U.S.L.W. 4294




No. 88-6677

United States Supreme Court

March 5, 1990

Argued Oct. 30, 1989




Six weeks after Pamela Lane was murdered, petitioner Butler was arrested on an unrelated assault charge for which he retained counsel. While in custody, Butler was informed that he was a suspect in Lane's murder. After receiving Miranda warnings, he signed waiver of rights forms and made incriminating statements about the Lane murder during interrogation. At his capital murder trial, the court denied his motion to suppress these statements, and he was convicted and sentenced to death. After his conviction became final on direct appeal, he filed a petition for federal habeas relief, which was dismissed by the District Court. The Court of Appeals affirmed, rejecting his argument that Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, requires the police, during continuous custody, to refrain from all further questioning once an accused invokes his right to counsel on any offense. Subsequently, this Court handed down Arizona v. Roberson, 486 U.S. 675, which held that the Fifth Amendment bars police-initiated interrogation following a suspect's request for counsel in the context of a separate investigation. The Court of Appeals denied Butler's request for rehearing. It reasoned that he was not entitled to the retroactive benefit of Roberson. According to the court, the Edwards-Roberson limitations on police interrogation are only tangentially related to the truthfinding function. It viewed those limitations as part of the prophylactic protection of the Fifth Amendment right to counsel created to be "guidelines" for the law enforcement profession, and held that Butler's interrogation, while contrary to present "guidelines," had been conducted in strict accordance with established law at the time.


1. Roberson announced a "new rule," since its result was not dictated by a precedent existing at the time the defendant's conviction became final, and is therefore inapplicable to cases on collateral review under Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, and Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302. The fact that a majority of this Court said that Roberson's case was directly controlled by Edwards is not conclusive for purposes of deciding whether Roberson is a new rule under Teague. Courts frequently view their decisions as "controlled" or "governed" [110 S.Ct. 1214] by prior opinions, even when aware of reasonable contrary conclusions reached by other courts. It would not have been an illogical or even a grudging

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application of Edwards to decide that it did not extend to Roberson's facts, since -- as evidenced by the significant difference of opinion on the part of several lower courts that had considered the question previously -- Roberson's outcome was susceptible to debate among reasonable minds. Pp. 412-415.

2. Roberson's rule does not come within either of the exceptions under which a new rule is available on collateral review. The first exception -- for a rule that places certain kinds of primary, private individual conduct beyond the power of the criminal law-making authority to proscribe -- is clearly inapplicable. The proscribed conduct in the instant case is capital murder, the prosecution of which is not prohibited by the Roberson rule, and Roberson did not address any categorical guarantees accorded by the Constitution, see Penry, supra, at 329. Nor did Roberson establish any principle that would come within the second exception. The scope of that exception -- for a rule that requires the observance of those procedures that are implicit in the concept of ordered liberty -- is limited to those new procedures without which the likelihood of an accurate conviction is seriously diminished. However, a violation of Roberson's added restrictions on police investigatory procedures may instead increase the likelihood of obtaining an accurate determination. Pp. 415-416.

846 F.2d 255 (CA4) affirmed.

REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, O'CONNOR, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, and in Parts I, II, and III of which BLACKMUN and STEVENS, JJ., joined.

REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

Chief Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner Horace Butler was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Pamela Lane. After his conviction became final on direct appeal, Butler collaterally attacked his conviction by way of a petition for federal habeas corpus. Butler relied on our decision in Arizona v. Roberson, 486

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U.S. 675 (1988), decided after his conviction became final on direct appeal. We have held, however, that a new decision generally is not applicable in cases on collateral review unless the decision was dictated by precedent existing at the time the petitioner's conviction became final. Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302, (1989); Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, (1989). We hold that our ruling in Roberson was not so dictated, and that Butler's claim is not within either of two narrow exceptions to the general rule.

Pamela Lane, a clerk at a convenience store near Charleston, South Carolina, was last seen alive when she left work riding a moped late in the evening of July 17, 1980. The next day, several fishermen discovered Lane's body near a bridge, and the following day, a local minister found Lane's moped submerged in a pond behind his church.

Petitioner Butler was arrested six weeks later on an unrelated assault and battery charge and placed in the Charleston County Jail. After invoking his Fifth Amendment right to counsel, Butler retained counsel who appeared with him at a bond hearing on August 31, 1980. He was unable to make bond, however, and was returned to the county jail. Butler's attorney would later contend in state collateral relief proceedings that, after the bond hearing, he had told the police officers not to question Butler further. The officers testified that they remembered no such instruction.

[110 S.Ct. 1215] Early in the morning of September 1, 1980, Butler was taken from the jail to the Charleston County Police station. He was then informed for the first time that he was a suspect in Lane's murder. After receiving Miranda warnings, see Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), Butler indicated that he understood his rights and signed two "waiver of rights" forms. The police then interrogated Butler about the murder. Butler did not request his attorney's presence at any time during the interrogation.

Butler offered two explanations for Lane's death. First, he claimed that a friend, one White, killed Lane and then sought Butler's help in disposing of the moped. When his interrogators

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evidenced skepticism over this statement, Butler tried again. He said that he had come upon Lane in his car and had motioned her over to the side of the road. She then voluntarily accompanied him in a drive to a nearby wooded area where the two engaged in consensual sex. Afterwards Lane threatened to accuse Butler of rape when she realized she would be late getting home. Butler maintained that he panicked, shot Lane with a handgun, and dumped her body off a bridge. In this version of the story, Butler asserted that White helped him dispose of the moped. Butler later took the police to the locations of the various events culminating in Lane's death.

The State indicted Butler and brought him to trial on a charge of first-degree murder. The trial court denied Butler's motion to suppress the statements given to police, and the statements were introduced into evidence. The jury found Butler guilty and, in a separate proceeding, sentenced him to death concluding that he committed the murder during the commission of a rape. The Supreme Court of South Carolina upheld Butler's conviction on direct appeal, State v. Butler, 277 S.C. 452, 290 S.E.2d 1, and we denied certiorari. 459 U.S. 932 (1982). Subsequently, Butler unsuccessfully petitioned for collateral relief in the State's courts, see Butler v. State, 286 S.C. 441, 334 S.E.2d 813 (1985), and we again denied certiorari. 474 U.S. 1094 (1986).

In May 1986, Butler filed this petition for federal habeas relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. As characterized by the District Court, one question raised in the petition was

whether police had the right to initiate questioning about the murder knowing petitioner had retained an attorney for the assault charge.

App. 119. The District Court dismissed the petition on respondents' motion for summary judgment.

On appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, see Butler v. Aiken, 846 F.2d 255 (1988),

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Butler argued that Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981), requires the police, during continuous custody, to refrain from all further questioning once an accused invokes his right to counsel on any offense. In support of his argument, Butler relied principally on United States ex rel. Espinoza v. Fairman, 813 F.2d 117 (CA7 1987). The Court of Appeals rejected Butler's Espinoza-based contention, finding the Seventh Circuit's ruling an unpersuasive and "dramatic" extension of Edwards. Butler, 846 F.2d at 258.

The court concluded that Butler's statements were preceded by appropriate warnings and a voluntary waiver of Fifth Amendment protections. The statements, therefore, were not obtained in violation of his constitutional rights or Edwards' prophylactic rule. According to the court, a properly initiated interrogation on an entirely different charge does not intrude into an accused's previously invoked rights, but instead offers the accused an opportunity to weigh his rights intelligently in light of changed circumstances. When, as occurred in this case, the accused then...

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