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Massiah v. United States


The defendant was indicted, along with another individual, for violating narcotics laws. The defendant retained a lawyer, pled not guilty, and was released on bail. Shortly after the defendant was released, the other individual agreed to cooperate with the government in their continued investigation of the defendant. This individual permitted an officer to install a radio transmitter under the front seat of his automobile that would allow the agent to monitor conversations carried on in the vehicle. One evening, the individual and the defendant had a lengthy conversation in the vehicle that was overheard by the officer. During this conversation, the defendant made several incriminating statements. The statements made by the defendant were used to convict him at his subsequent trial.


Whether the defendant’s statements to the individual, after indictment and in the absence of his counsel, were obtained in violation of the Sixth Amendment?


Yes. The defendant has a Sixth Amendment right to the presence of counsel during any government questioning during the adversarial process related to those charges pending in the adversarial process.


A defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel attaches at the beginning of the “adversarial judicial process.” Once the adversarial judicial process begins, a defendant has a right to have counsel present at all “critical stages” of the process, including when any agent of the government questions the defendant. In this case, the defendant was denied the basic protections of the Sixth Amendment “when there was used against him at his trial evidence of his own incriminating words, which federal agents had deliberately elicited from him after he had been indicted and in the absence of his counsel.”


377 U.S. 201, 84 S. Ct. 1199 (1964)

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