Is Evidence Obtained In Violation of the Sixth Amendment Admissible ?
In Maine v. Moulton, 474 U.S. 159, 88 L. Ed. 2d 481, 106 S. Ct. 477 (1985), Perley Moulton and Gary Colson were codefendants indicted on identical theft charges. Moulton, 474 U.S. at 162, 88 L. Ed. 2d at 487, 106 S. Ct. at 480.
In one of many conversations between the two men while they awaited trial, Moulton suggested that he and Colson murder a key prosecution witness.
Colson passed on this potential defense strategy to the police and agreed to join with them in an effort to gather more evidence of Moulton's guilt. Moulton, 474 U.S. at 163, 88 L. Ed. 2d at 488, 106 S. Ct. at 480.
Tape recordings of subsequent conversations between Colson and Moulton recorded numerous incriminating statements that were admitted into evidence at Moulton's trial. Moulton, 474 U.S. at 163-66, 88 L. Ed. 2d at 488-89, 106 S. Ct. at 480-82.
The United States Supreme Court explained that "the Sixth Amendment guarantees the accused, at least after the initiation of formal charges, the right to rely on counsel as a 'medium' between him and the State" and that "this guarantee includes the State's affirmative obligation not to act in a manner that circumvents the protections accorded the accused by invoking this right." Moulton, 474 U.S. at 176, 88 L. Ed. 2d at 496, 106 S. Ct. at 487.
Justice Brennan wrote:
"The determination whether particular action by state agents violates the accused's right to the assistance of counsel must be made in light of this obligation.
Thus, the Sixth Amendment is not violated whenever-by luck or happenstance-the State obtains incriminating statements from the accused after the right to counsel has attached.
However, knowing exploitation by the State of an opportunity to confront the accused without counsel being present is as much a breach of the State's obligation not to circumvent the right to the assistance of counsel as is the intentional creation of such an opportunity.
Accordingly, the Sixth Amendment is violated when the State obtains incriminating statements by knowingly circumventing the accused's right to have counsel present in a confrontation between the accused and a state agent." Moulton, 474 U.S. at 176, 88 L. Ed. 2d at 496, 106 S. Ct. at 487.
In response to the State of Maine's suggestion that the sixth amendment violation could be excused because there were "other, legitimate reasons for listening to Moulton's conversations with Colson, namely, to investigate Moulton's alleged plan to kill [a key prosecution witness] and to insure Colson's safety" (Moulton, 474 U.S. at 178, 88 L. Ed. 2d at 497, 106 S. Ct. at 488), Justice Brennan wrote:
"The police have an interest in the thorough investigation of crimes for which formal charges have already been filed.
They also have an interest in investigating new or additional crimes.
Investigations of either type of crime may require surveillance of individuals already under indictment.
Moreover, law enforcement officials investigating an individual suspected of committing one crime and formally charged with having committed another crime obviously seek to discover evidence useful at a trial of either crime.
In seeking evidence pertaining to pending charges, however, the Government's investigative powers are limited by the Sixth Amendment rights of the accused.
To allow the admission of evidence obtained from the accused in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights whenever the police assert an alternative, legitimate reason for their surveillance invites abuse by law enforcement personnel in the form of fabricated investigations and risks the evisceration of the Sixth Amendment right recognized in Massiah.
Consequently, incriminating statements pertaining to pending charges are inadmissible at the trial of those charges, not withstanding the fact that the police were also investigating other crimes, if, in obtaining this evidence, the State violated the Sixth Amendment by knowingly circumventing the accused's right to the assistance of counsel." Moulton, 474 U.S. at 179-80, 88 L. Ed. 2d at 498-99, 106 S. Ct. at 489.