False Massiah: The Sixth Amendment Revolution That Wasn’t
50 Texas Tech. L. Rev. 153 (2017)
19 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2018
Date Written: 2017
Today, when one thinks of the Supreme Court’s seminal decisions concerning the constitutional regulation of confessions, Miranda v. Arizona naturally comes to mind. This symposium contribution considers yet another Warren Court decision regarding confessions, one issued two years before Miranda: Massiah v. United States. In Massiah, the Court deviated from its decades-long reliance on due process to limit police authority to extract confessions, focusing instead on the right to counsel contained in the Sixth Amendment. Massiah inspired a spirited three-member dissent, written by Justice Byron White, voicing a tone of alarm akin to that to come in the Miranda dissents, and the decision has since been lauded as a key limit on police authority.
This Article assesses whether Massiah warrants such praise and concern. It does so by reporting the results of a study of almost two thousand state and federal Massiah-related cases decided between Massiah and the Court's 2009 decision in Montejo v. Louisiana, which imposed major limits on Massiah’s application. If Montejo marks an end to what seemed a significant constraint on police authority, the study illuminates what has been lost. As it turns out, despite Massiah’s initial promise, it has had rather limited impact, at least as reflected in the caselaw. The article contextualizes these results by examining research conducted to date on the impact of other confession-related constitutional limits imposed on police by the Court, especially those concerning Massiah’s contemporary--Miranda.
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