556 U.S. 778 (2009), 07-1529, Montejo v. Louisiana

Docket Nº:07-1529
Citation:556 U.S. 778, 129 S.Ct. 2079, 173 L.Ed.2d 955, 77 U.S.L.W. 4423
Party Name:Jesse Jay MONTEJO, Petitioner, v. LOUISIANA.
Case Date:May 26, 2009
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 778

556 U.S. 778 (2009)

129 S.Ct. 2079, 173 L.Ed.2d 955, 77 U.S.L.W. 4423

Jesse Jay MONTEJO, Petitioner,



No. 07-1529

United States Supreme Court

May 26, 2009

Argued Jan. 13, 2009.



At a preliminary hearing required by Louisiana law, petitioner Montejo was charged with first-degree murder, and the court ordered the appointment of counsel. Later that day, the police read Montejo his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694, and he agreed to go along on a trip to locate the murder weapon. During the excursion, he wrote an inculpatory letter of apology to the victim's widow. Upon returning, he finally met his court-appointed attorney. At trial, his letter was admitted over defense objection, and he was convicted and sentenced to death. Affirming, the State Supreme Court rejected his claim that the letter should have been suppressed under the rule of Michigan v. Jackson, 475 U.S. 625, 106 S.Ct. 1404, 89 L.Ed.2d 631, which forbids police to initiate interrogation of a criminal defendant once he has invoked his right to counsel at an arraignment or similar proceeding. The court reasoned that Jackson's prophylactic protection is not triggered unless the defendant has actually requested a lawyer or has otherwise asserted his Sixth Amendment right to counsel; and that, since Montejo stood mute at his hearing while the judge ordered the appointment of counsel, he had made no such request or assertion.


  1. Michigan v. Jackson should be and now is overruled. Pp. 2083-2091.

(a) The State Supreme Court's interpretation of Jackson would lead to practical problems. Requiring an initial "invocation" of the right to counsel in order to trigger the Jackson presumption, as the court below did, might work in States that require an indigent defendant formally to request counsel before an appointment is made, but not in more than half the States, which appoint counsel without request from the defendant. Pp. 2083 - 2085.

(b) On the other hand, Montejo's solution is untenable as a theoretical and doctrinal matter. Eliminating the invocation requirement entirely would depart fundamentally from the rationale of Jackson, whose presumption was created by analogy to a similar prophylactic rule established in Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 101 S.Ct. 1880, 68 L.Ed.2d 378, to protect the Fifth Amendment-based Miranda right. Both Edivards and Jackson are meant to prevent police from badgering defendants into changing their minds about the right to counsel once they have invoked it, but a defendant who never asked for counsel has not yet made up his mind in the first instance. Pp. 2084-2089.

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(c) Stare decisis does not require the Court to expand significantly the holding of a prior decision in order to cure its practical deficiencies. To the contrary, the [129 S.Ct. 2081] fact that a decision has proved "unworkable" is a traditional ground for overruling it. Payne v. Tennessee, 501 U.S. 808, 827, 111 S.Ct. 2597, 115 L.Ed.2d 720. Beyond workability, the relevant factors include the precedent's antiquity, the reliance interests at stake, and whether the decision was well reasoned. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. ___, ___, 129 S.Ct. 808, 172 L.Ed.2d 565. The first two cut in favor of jettisoning Jackson: the opinion is only two decades old, and eliminating it would not upset expectations, since any criminal defendant learned enough to order his affairs based on Jackson's rule would also be perfectly capable of interacting with the police on his own. As for the strength of Jackson's reasoning, when this Court creates a prophylactic rule to protect a constitutional right, the relevant "reasoning" is the weighing of the rule's benefits against its costs. Jackson's marginal benefits are dwarfed by its substantial costs. Even without Jackson, few badgering-induced waivers, if any, would be admitted at trial because the Court has taken substantial other, overlapping measures to exclude them. Under Miranda, any suspect subject to custodial interrogation must be advised of his right to have a lawyer present. 384 U.S., at 474, 86 S.Ct. 1602. Under Edwards, once such a defendant "has invoked his [Miranda] right," interrogation must stop. 451 U.S., at 484, 101 S.Ct. 1880. And under Minnick v. Mississippi, 498 U.S. 146, 111 S.Ct. 486, 112 L.Ed.2d 489, no subsequent interrogation may take place until counsel is present. Id., at 153, 111 S.Ct. 486. These three layers of prophylaxis are sufficient. On the other side of the equation, the principal cost of applying Jackson's rule is that crimes can go unsolved and criminals unpunished when uncoerced confessions are excluded and when officers are deterred from even trying to obtain confessions. The Court concludes that the Jackson rule does not "pay its way," United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 907-908, n. 6, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 82 L.Ed.2d 677, and thus the case should be overruled. Pp. 2088 - 2091.

2. Montejo should nonetheless be given an opportunity to contend that his letter of apology should have been suppressed under the Edwards rule. He understandably did not pursue an Edwards objection, because Jackson offered broader protections, but the decision here changes the legal landscape. Pp. 2091 - 2092.

06-1807 (La.), 974 So.2d 1238, vacated and remanded.

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C.J., and KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, J J., joined. ALITO, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which KENNEDY, J., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SOUTER and GINSBURG, J J., joined, and in which BREYER, J., joined, except for n. 5. BREYER, J., filed a dissenting opinion.


Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., Washington, DC, for petitioner.

Kathryn W. Landry, Baton Rouge, LA, for respondent.

James D. "Buddy" Caldwell, Louisiana Attorney General, S. Kyle Duncan, Appellate Chief, Louisiana Department of Justice, Baton Rouge, LA, Kathryn Landry, Counsel of Record, Walter P. Reed, Houston C. Gascon, III, Scott C. Gardner, St. Tammany Parish, District Attorney's Office, Baton Rouge, LA, for respondent State of Louisiana.

Jelpi P. Picou, G. Ben Cohen, Robert J. Smith, New Orleans, LA, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., Counsel of Record, Ian Heath Gershengorn, Katherine A. Fallow, Thomas H. Kim, Paul M. Smith, Counsel of Record, William M. Hohengarten, [129 S.Ct. 2082] Matthew S. Hellman, Adam G. Unikowsky (not admitted in DC; supervised by principals of the firm), Jenner & Block LLP, Washington, DC, for petitioner.


Page 780

Scalia, Justice

We consider in this case the scope and continued viability of the rule announced by this Court in Michigan v. Jackson, 475 U.S. 625, 106 S.Ct. 1404, 89 L.Ed.2d 631 (1986), forbidding police to initiate interrogation

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of a criminal defendant once he has requested counsel at an arraignment or similar proceeding.


Petitioner Jesse Montejo was arrested on September 6, 2002, in connection with the robbery and murder of Lewis Ferrari, who had been found dead in his own home one day earlier. Suspicion quickly focused on Jerry Moore, a disgruntled former employee of Ferrari's dry cleaning business. Police sought to question Montejo, who was a known associate of Moore.

Montejo waived his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), and was interrogated at the sheriffs office by police detectives through the late afternoon and evening of September 6 and the early morning of September 7. During the interrogation, Montejo repeatedly changed his account of the crime, at first claiming that he had only driven Moore to the victim's home, and ultimately admitting that he had shot and killed Ferrari in the course of a botched burglary. These police interrogations were videotaped.

On September 10, Montejo was brought before a judge for what is known in Louisiana as a "72-hour hearing"—a preliminary hearing required under state law.1 Although the proceedings were not transcribed, the minute record indicates what transpired: "The defendant being charged with First Degree Murder, Court ordered N[o] Bond set in this matter. Further, Court ordered the Office of Indigent Defender be appointed to represent the defendant." App. to Pet. for Cert. 63a.

Later that same day, two police detectives visited Montejo back at the prison and requested that he accompany them on an excursion to locate the murder weapon (which Montejo

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had earlier indicated he had thrown into a lake). After some back-and-forth, the substance of which remains in dispute, Montejo was again read his Miranda rights and agreed to go along; during the excursion, he wrote an inculpatory letter of apology to the victim's widow. Only upon their return did Montejo finally meet his court-appointed attorney, who was quite upset that the detectives had interrogated his client in his absence.

At trial, the letter of apology was admitted over defense objection. The jury convicted Montejo of first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to death.

The Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence. 06–1807 (1/16/08), 974 So.2d 1238 (2008). As relevant here, the court rejected Montejo's [129 S.Ct. 2083] argument that under the rule of Jackson, supra, the letter should have been suppressed. 974 So.2d, at 1261. Jackson held that "if police initiate interrogation after a defendant's assertion, at an arraignment or similar proceeding, of his right to counsel, any waiver of the defendant's right to counsel for that police-initiated interrogation is invalid."475 U.S., at 636, 106 S.Ct. 1404.

Citing a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Montoya v. Collins, 955 F.2d 279 (1992), the Louisiana Supreme Court reasoned that the prophylactic protection of Jackson is not triggered unless and until...

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