Arizona v. Mauro, 85-2121

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation107 S.Ct. 1931,95 L.Ed.2d 458,481 U.S. 520
Docket NumberNo. 85-2121,85-2121
PartiesARIZONA, Petitioner v. William Carl MAURO
Decision Date04 May 1987

481 U.S. 520
107 S.Ct. 1931
95 L.Ed.2d 458
ARIZONA, Petitioner


William Carl MAURO.

No. 85-2121.
Argued March 31, 1987.
Decided May 4, 1987.
Rehearing Denied June 26, 1987.

See 483 U.S. 1034, 107 S.Ct. 3278.


After being advised of his Miranda rights while in custody for killing his son, respondent stated that he did not wish to answer any questions until a lawyer was present. All questioning then ceased and respondent was placed in the police captain's office since there was no secure detention area. Following her questioning in another room, respondent's wife insisted that she be allowed to speak with her husband. Although reluctant at first, the police allowed the meeting in the office on the condition that an officer be present. Using a recorder placed in plain sight, the officer taped a brief conversation, during which the wife expressed despair, and respondent told her not to answer questions until a lawyer was present. The prosecution used the tape to rebut respondent's insanity defense, the trial court having refused to suppress it upon finding that the police's actions were not a subterfuge to avoid the dictates of Miranda. Respondent was convicted and sentenced to death, but the Arizona Supreme Court reversed, holding that the police had impermissibly interrogated respondent within the meaning of Miranda. Noting police admissions that they knew it was "possible" that respondent might make incriminating statements if he saw his wife, the court relied on the ruling in Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 100 S.Ct. 1682, 64 L.Ed.2d 297, that "interrogation" includes a practice—whether actual questioning or "its functional equivalent" that the police know is reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from a suspect. According to Innis, the likelihood-of-response question focuses primarily upon the perceptions of the suspect, rather than the intent of the police.

Held: The police's actions following respondent's refusal to be questioned without a lawyer did not constitute interrogation or its functional equivalent. The purpose of Miranda and Innis is to prevent the government from using the coercive nature of confinement to extract confessions that would not be given in an unrestrained environment. This purpose is not implicated here, since respondent was not subjected to compelling influences, psychological ploys, or direct questioning. There is no evidence that the police allowed the wife to meet with respondent in order to obtain incriminating statements. Moreover, police testimony, which the trial court found credible, indicated a number of legitimate reasons for an officer's presence at the meeting, including the wife's safety and various security considerations. Furthermore, an examination of the situation

Page 521

from respondent's perspective demonstrates the improbability that he would have felt he was being coerced to incriminate himself simply because he was told his wife would be allowed to speak to him. Although the police were indeed aware that it was "possible" respondent would incriminate himself while talking to his wife, police do not "interrogate" a suspect simply by hoping he will confess. Thus, respondent's statements to his wife were voluntary, and their use at his trial was not prohibited by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. 525-530.

149 Ariz. 24, 716 P.2d 393 (1986), reversed and remanded.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE, O'CONNOR, and SCALIA, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 530.

Jack Roberts, Phoenix, Ariz., for petitioner.

Kathleen Kelly Walsh, Flagstaff, Ariz., for respondent.

Justice POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

While respondent in this case was in police custody, he indicated that he did not wish to answer any questions until a lawyer was present. The issue presented is whether, in the circumstances of this case, officers interrogated respondent in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments when they allowed him to speak with his wife in the presence of a police officer.


On November 23, 1982, the Flagstaff Police Department received a telephone call from a local K Mart store. The caller stated that a man had entered the store claiming to have killed his son. When officers reached the store, respondent Mauro freely admitted that he had killed his son. He directed the officers to the child's body, and then was arrested and advised of his constitutional rights pursuant to

Page 522

Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). The officers then took Mauro to the police station, where he was advised of his Miranda rights again. At that point, Mauro told the officers that he did not wish to make any more statements without having a lawyer present. All questioning then ceased. As no secure detention area was available, Mauro was held in the office of the police captain.

At the same time, one of the officers, Detective Manson, was questioning Mauro's wife in another room. After she finished speaking with Manson, Mrs. Mauro asked if she could speak to her husband. Manson was reluctant to allow the meeting, but after Mrs. Mauro insisted, he discussed the request with his supervisor, Sergeant Allen. Allen testified that he "saw no harm in it and suggested to [Manson] that if she really sincerely wanted to talk to him to go ahead and allow it." App. 74. Allen instructed Manson not to leave Mr. and Mrs. Mauro alone and suggested that Manson tape-record the conversation.

Manson then "told both Mr. and Mrs. Mauro that they could speak together only if an officer were present in the room to observe and hear what was going on." Id., at 218 (findings of trial court). He brought Mrs. Mauro into the room and seated himself at a desk, placing a tape recorder in plain sight on the desk. He recorded their brief conversation, in which she expressed despair about their situation. During the conversation, Mauro told his wife not to answer questions until a lawyer was present.1

Page 523

Mauro's defense at trial was that he had been insane at the time of the crime. In rebuttal, the prosecution played the tape of the meeting between Mauro and his wife, arguing that it demonstrated that Mauro was sane on the day of the murder. Mauro sought suppression of the recording on the ground that it was a product of police interrogation in violation of his Miranda rights. The trial court refused to suppress the recording. First, it explained the basis of the officers' decision to allow Mrs. Mauro to meet with her husband in the presence of a policeman:

"The police counseled [Mrs. Mauro] not to [speak with her husband], but she was adamant about that. They finally yielded to her insistent demands. The Police Station lacked a secure interview room. The police justifiably appeared [sic ] for Mrs. Mauro's . . . safety, and they were also concerned about security, both in terms of whether Mr. and Mrs. Mauro might cook up a lie or

Page 524

swap statements with each other that shouldn't have been allowed, and whether some escape attempt might have been made, or whether there might have been an attempt to smuggle in a weapon. They really had no idea what to expect along those lines." Ibid.

In light of these justifications, the trial court found "that this procedure was not a ruse, nor a subterfuge by the police. They did not create this situation [i.e., allowing the meeting] as an indirect means of avoiding the dictates of Miranda." Ibid. Accordingly, the trial court admitted the evidence. Mauro was convicted of murder and child abuse, and sentenced to death.

The Arizona Supreme Court reversed. 149 Ariz. 24, 716 P.2d 393 (1986). It found that by allowing Mauro to speak with his wife in the presence of a police officer, the detectives interrogated Mauro within the meaning of Miranda. This interrogation was impermissible, the court said, because Mauro previously had invoked the right to have counsel present before being questioned further. The court noted that both detectives had acknowledged in pretrial hearings that they knew it was "possible" that Mauro might make incriminating statements if he saw his wife.2 The court relied

Page 525

on our statement in Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 100 S.Ct. 1682, 64 L.Ed.2d 297 (1980), that interrogation includes a "practice that the police should know is reasonably likely to evoke an incriminating response from a suspect," id., at 301, 100 S.Ct., at 1689. The court then concluded that the officers' testimony demonstrated that there had been interrogation, because "[t]hey both knew that if the conversation took place, incriminating statements were likely to be made." 149 Ariz., at 31, 716 P.2d, at 400. Therefore, it held that the tape recording was not properly admitted at Mauro's trial.

Arizona filed a petition for a writ of certiorari. Because the decision below appeared to misconstrue our decision in Rhode Island v. Innis, supra, we granted the petition, 479 U.S. 811, 107 S.Ct. 60, 93 L.Ed.2d 19 (1986). We now reverse.


We begin by summarizing the relevant legal principles. The Fifth Amendment provides that no "person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." 3 In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), the Court concluded that "without proper safeguards the process of in-custody interrogation of persons suspected or accused of crime contains inherently compelling pressures which work to undermine the individual's will to resist and to compel him to speak where he would not otherwise do so freely." Id., at 467, 86 S.Ct., at 1624. "Accordingly, the Court formulated the now-familiar 'procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination.' " Colorado v. Spring, 479 U.S. 564, 572, 107 S.Ct. 851, 856, 93...

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