507 U.S. 1043 (1993), 92-7507, Mueller v. Virginia

Docket Nº:No. 92-7507.
Citation:507 U.S. 1043, 113 S.Ct. 1880, 123 L.Ed.2d 498, 61 U.S.L.W. 3713
Party Name:Everett Lee MUELLER, petitioner, v. VIRGINIA.
Case Date:April 19, 1993
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 1043

507 U.S. 1043 (1993)

113 S.Ct. 1880, 123 L.Ed.2d 498, 61 U.S.L.W. 3713

Everett Lee MUELLER, petitioner,

v.

VIRGINIA.

No. 92-7507.

United States Supreme Court.

April 19, 1993

Rehearing Denied June 7, 1993.

OPINION

On petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Virginia.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice WHITE, with whom Justice BLACKMUN and Justice SOUTER join, dissenting.

Under Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 484-485, 101 S.Ct. 1880, 1884-1885, 68 L.Ed.2d 378 (1981), a defendant who invokes the Fifth Amendment right to counsel during custodial interrogation may not be subjected to further interrogation until counsel is made available to him, unless he subsequently initiates communications. "[I]t is inconsistent with Miranda [v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966),] and its progeny," the Court concluded, "for the authorities, at their instance, to reinterrogate an accused in custody if he has clearly asserted his right to counsel." Id. at 485, 101 S.Ct. at 1885. While easily stated, the Edwards rule has not always been easy to apply. In particular, the question of how officials conducting an interrogation ought to respond to a defendant's ambiguous or equivocal assertion of the right to counsel has divided the state and federal courts. The Court should take this opportunity to resolve this important constitutional question.

Virginia police arrested petitioner in connection with the abduction, rape, and murder of 10-year-old Charity Powers. Petitioner was advised of his Miranda rights and agreed to talk to a detective and an FBI agent. During the interrogation, petitioner asked the detective: " 'Do you think I need an attorney here?' " The detective responded by shaking his head slightly from side to side, shrugging, and stating: " 'You're just talking to us.' " The interrogation continued and petitioner confessed to the crimes. See 244 Va. 386, 391, 422 S.E.2d 380, 384 (1992). Petitioner sought to suppress the confession, claiming, inter alia, that the continuation of the interrogation constituted an Edwards violation. The trial court denied the motion and petitioner was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Relying on its prior decision in Eaton v. Commonwealth, 240 Va. 236, 253-254, 397 S.E.2d 385, 395-396 (1990), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 824, 112 S.Ct. 88, 116 L.Ed.2d 60 (1991), which in turn relied on Edwards' reference to a defendant who has "clearly asserted" the right to counsel, see supra, at 1880, the Virginia Supreme Court affirmed, concluding that petitioner's...

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