RIDDELL v. RHAY - 404 U.S. 974 (1971)


U.S. Supreme Court

RIDDELL v. RHAY , 404 U.S. 974 (1971)

404 U.S. 974

Robert James RIDDELL
v.
B. J. RHAY, Superintendent, Washington State Penitentiary.
No. 70-5379.

Supreme Court of the United States

November 22, 1971

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, with whom Mr. Justice BRENNAN concurs, dissenting.

Over the dissents of Justices Black, Brennan, Marshall and myself, this Court last Term held that statements elicited in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), may nevertheless be used to impeach the credibility of a defendant whose testimony in his own behalf is inconsistent with those statements. Harris v. New York, 401 U.S. 222 (1971). A denial of certiorari in this case would illustrate the rewards that would flow to those police interrogators who, deliberately or otherwise, ignore the restrictions placed upon them by Miranda: restrictions necessary to safeguard the privilege against self-incrimination and to insure the reliability of statements elicited in the police-dominated atmosphere of an incommunicado custodial interrogation.

Petitioner Riddell was convicted in state court of assault. The facts are undisputed. In the course of an argument over the conduct of a neighbor's dog, a rifle carried by Mr. Riddell discharged, the bullet striking his neighbor in the foot. The only real issue at trial was that of intent. Testifying in his own defense, Mr. Riddell said he did not intend for the rifle to go off, and did not have his finger on the trigger when it did fire. On cross-examination, however, the prosecution was permitted to confront Mr. Riddell with a statement elicited from him, in violation of Miranda, in which he told the police 'I cocked the hammer and pulled the trigger. I thought the rifle was aimed towards the ground and only intended to scare Mr. Lewis.' This statement was virtually a direct admission of the only element of the offense at issue; and though it was introduced for the

Page 404 U.S. 974 , 975

'limited purpose' of 'impeachment,' it was certain to have a prejudicial, if not conclusive, effect on the jury.

The possibility of using illegally obtained incriminating statements at trial, for any purpose, raises grave questions concerning police noncompliance with Miranda. It is undeniable that Miranda was predicated in part upon a deep concern for discouraging coercive police practices. Eleven pages of the opinion are devoted to an examination of police interrogation procedures. They compel the conclusion 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.' 384 U.S., at 467.

It is, of course, just this kind of testimonial compulsion that the Fifth Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth, proscribes.

There is widespread agreement that police interrogation procedures are sensitive to the mandates of the courts:

    '[T]he predominant incentive for interrogation is to obtain evidence for use in court. Consequently, police conduct in this area is likely to be responsive to judicial rules governing the admissibility of that evidence. 'There can be no doubt,' the President's Crime Commission reported, that the Supreme Court's rulings about interrogation procedures 'had much to do with the fact that today the third degree is almost non-existent."

Oaks, The Exclusionary Rule in Search and Seizure, 37 U.Chi.L.Rev. 665, 722 (1970). See also, J. Q. Wilson, Varieties of Police Behavior ( 1968). Thus, to the extent that the use of incriminating statements elic- [404 U.S. 974 , 976]




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