Jenkins v. Delaware, 748

Decision Date02 June 1969
Docket NumberNo. 748,748
Citation23 L.Ed.2d 253,395 U.S. 213,89 S.Ct. 1677
PartiesThornton A. JENKINS, Petitioner, v. State of DELAWARE
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Henry N. Herndon, Jr., Wilmington, Del., for petitioner.

Jay H. Conner, Wilmington, Del., for respondent.

Mr. Chief Justice WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

In Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719, 86 S.Ct. 1772, 16 L.Ed.2d 882 (1966), we held that Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), 'applies ony to cases in which the trial began after the date of our (Miranda) decision * * *.' 384 U.S., at 721, 86 S.Ct. at 1775. In this case, we must decide whether Miranda's standards for determining the admissibility of in-custody statements apply to post-Miranda retrials1 of cases originally tried prior to that decision.2 We hold that they do not.

Petitioner was arrested on the morning of March 17, 1965, as a murder suspect, and was interrogated on three separate occasions, at 11:30 a.m., 2:50 p.m., and 7:05 p.m. Although indigent, he was not advised that he had the right to have an attorney present at the State's expense. Approximately 10 minutes after the evening interrogation began, petitioner gave the police a statement in which he admitted struggling with the victim during a burglary the preceding evening.

Petitioner's first trial commenced on January 13, 1966. He did not take the stand, but his incriminating statement was admitted into evidence. The jury found him guilty of murder in the first degree and burglary in the fourth degree. Disregarding the jury's recommendation, the trial court sentenced him to death. During the pendency of petitioner's appeal to the Supreme Court of Delaware, we decided Miranda and Johnson. In reversing petitioner's conviction on various state grounds, the Delaware Supreme Court also determined, sua sponte, that under Johnson petitioner's statement, which was obtained without fully advising him of his constitutional rights, would be admissible at his retrial. 230 A.2d 262 (1967). It reasoned that the retrial would be a mere continuation of the case originally commenced prior to our decision in Miranda.

Petitioner's second trial began on October 2, 1967. He was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. The Supreme Court of Delaware affirmed, again rejecting petitioner's argument that under Johnson his incriminating statement was inadmissible at his retrial. 240 A.2d 146 (1968). Because of a disagreement among state courts over this issue,3 we granted certiorari. 393 U.S. 950, 89 S.Ct. 380, 21 L.Ed.2d 361 (1968). For the reasons stated below, we affirm.

Petitioner and the decisions he relies upon4 emphasize our references in Johnson to 'trials' commenced before the date Miranda was decided and our stated concern for the reliance placed on pre-Miranda standards by trial courts as well as by law enforcement officers. Peti- tioner argues that this 'studied' focus on the trial process indicates that we intended Miranda to be applied to retrials, which, he insists, begin that process anew. As Delaware correctly points out, however, more than once we stated our holding in Johnson in terms of 'cases' commenced before the date of Miranda. See 384 U.S., at 733, 86 S.Ct. 1781. Delaware and the authorities it relies upon5 argue that, since the word 'case' usually incorporates all the judicial proceedings against an accused, a retrial is not the 'commencement' of a case. Delaware also quotes our statement that only '(f)uture defendants will benefit fully from our new standards governing incustody interrogation, while past defendants may still avail themselves of the voluntariness test.' Id., 384 U.S. at 732, 86 S.Ct., at 1780. Delaware suggests that petitioner, who was tried six months before Miranda, cannot be regarded as a 'future' defendant within the meaning of Johnson. That there is language in Johnson supporting the positions of both petitioner and respondent demonstrates what some courts and commentators have readily recognized: in that decision, we did not consider the applicability of Miranda to retrials.6 The issue simply was not presented.

Petitioner buttresses his interpretation of Johnson by arguing that Miranda must be applied to retrials in order to insure the uniform treatment of individuals similarly situated. If it is not applied, he points out, it is possible that different standards for the protection of constitutional rights could be applied to two defendants simultaneously tried in the same courthouse for similar offenses. This anomaly could result if one of the defendants had been previously tried for the same offense prior to Miranda. This identical result, however, is also possible under our more recent prospectivity decisions. Because both Desist v. United States, 394 U.S. 244, 89 S.Ct. 1030, 22 L.Ed.2d 248 (1969), and Stovall v. Denno, 388 U.S. 293, 87 S.Ct. 1967, 18 L.Ed.2d 1199 (1967), selected the date on which the prohibited practice was engaged in, rather than the date the trial commenced, to determine the applicability of newly formulated constitutional standards, those standards do not apply to retrials of defendants originally tried prior to the dates the standards were announced. In fact, under those decisions, different rules could govern where neither defendant had been tried before, depending upon when the condemned practice was engaged in.

Moreover, as petitioner acknowledges, Johnson made it quite clear that Miranda need not be applied to trials commenced prior to that decision but not yet final when it was announced. On that date, petitioner's case was in precisely that posture. The type of apparent incongruity petitioner urges us to avoid is equally present in refusing to apply Miranda to defendants whose cases, like petitioner's, were not final on the date Miranda was decided, yet making an exception for petitioner simply because he was afforded a post-Miranda retrial for reasons wholly unrelated to the admissibility of his incriminating statement. Nor is petitioner's hypothetical more disconcerting than apl ying the new standards for in-custody interrogation to Ernesto Miranda while denying them to other defendants whose cases, for wholly fortuitous reasons, simply reached this Court at a later date, although the defendants in those cases may have been both interrogated and tried after Ernesto Miranda.

In short, petitioner's concern for what he refers to as 'visible imperfection(s) in a judicial process' merely highlights the problem inherent in prospective decision-making, i.e., some defendants benefit from the new rule while others do not, solely because of the fortuities that determine the progress of their cases from initial investigation and arrest to final judgment. The resulting incongruities must be balanced against the impetus the technique provides for the implementation of long overdue reforms, which otherwise could not be practicably effected. Thus, raising the stector of potential anomalies does not further the difficult decision of selecting the precise event that should determine the prospective application of a newly formulated constitutional principle.

Once the need is established for applying the principle prospectively, as the Supreme Court of New Jersey has pointed out, 'there is a large measure of judicial discretion involved in deciding * * * the time from which the new principle is to be deemed controlling.' State v. Vigliano, 50 N.J. 51, 65—66, 232 A.2d 129, 137 (1967). In our more recent decisions in this area, we have regarded as determinative the moment at which the discarded standards were first relied upon.

See e.g., Desist v. United States, supra; Stovall v. Denno, supra. The point of reliance is critical, not because of any constitutional compulsion, but because it determines the impact that newly articulated constitutional principles will have upon convictions obtained pursuant to investigatory and prosecutorial practices not previously proscribed. See Johnson v. New Jersey, supra, 384 U.S. at 733, 86 S.Ct. at 16 L.Ed.2d 882. See generally Schaefer, The Control of 'Sunbursts': Techniques of Prospective Overruling, 42 N.Y.U.L.Rev. 631 (1967).7

In Johnson, after considering the need to avoid unreasonably disrupting the administration of our criminal laws, we selected the commencement of trial as determinative. We of course could have applied Miranda to all judgments not yet final, although they were obtained in good-faith reliance upon constitutional standards then applicable. See Linkletter v. Walker, 381 U.S. 618, 85 S.Ct. 1731 (1965). As we pointed out, however, that choice 'would (have) impose(d) an unjustifiable burden on the administration of justice.' 384 U.S., at 733, 86 S.Ct., at 1781. On the other han, we could have adopted the approach we took in Stovall and Desist and made the point of initial reliance, the moment the defendant is interrogated, the operative event. See Schaefer, supra, at 646. But in an effort to extend the protection of Miranda to as many defendants as was consistent with society's legitimate concern that convictions already validly obtained not be needlessly aborted, we selected the commencement of the trial. Implicit in this choice was the assumption that, with few exceptions, the commission and investigation of a crime would be sufficiently proximate to the commencement of the defendant's trial that no undue burden would be imposed upon prosecuting authorities by requiring them to find evidentiary substitutes for statements obtained in violation of the constitutional protections afforded by Miranda.

This same concern for the justifiable reliance of law enforcement officials upon pre-Miranda standards militates against applying Miranda to retrials, which would place a much heavier burden upon prosecutors to compensate for the inadmissibility of incriminating statements obtained and admitted into evidence pursuant to practices not previously proscribed. See,...

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