435 U.S. 957 (1978)

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U.S. Supreme Court

LITTLE v. ARKANSAS. , 435 U.S. 957 (1978)

435 U.S. 957

Deborah Lynn LITTLE v. State of ARKANSAS
No. 77-5874

Supreme Court of the United States

April 3, 1978

Rehearing Denied May 22, 1978. See 436 U.S. 923.

On petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Arkansas.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Mr. Justice MARSHALL, with whom Mr. Justice BRENNAN joins, dissenting.

I would grant certiorari to resolve the question whether, before a juvenile waives her constitutional rights to remain silent and consult with an attorney, she is entitled to competent advice from an adult who does not have significant conflicts of interest.

Petitioner, a girl of "low dull normal" intelligence,1 has been sentenced to spend the rest of her life in prison for a crime that occurred when she was 13 years old. [Footnote 2] Her convict on for the murder of her father was based in large part on incriminating statements that she made on three occasions. The most important of these statements was a lengthy confession given at the county juvenile home on the day of the murder, in the presence of her mother, a probation officer, a prosecuting attorney, and two sheriff's deputies.

Prior to making this confession, petitioner spent 10-15 minutes alone with her mother, who had earlier been questioned by the police concerning the murder and who believed that she was herself a suspect. 261 Ark. 859, 866-867, 554 S.W.2d 312, 314-315 (1977). The mother emerged from this meeting, "look[ing] as if she had been crying," and stated

Page 435 U.S. 957 , 958

that petitioner wanted to confess. Id., at 867, 554 S.W.2d at 315. Petitioner then was advised of her rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).3 She said that she understood her rights and wished to talk. Her confession was tape-recorded and, along with testimony concerning petitioner's other self-incriminating statements,4 was introduced at trial over timely objection. Petitioner's subsequent conviction was affirmed by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

The issue presented here is an important one. In In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967), this Court recognized that " special problems may arise with respect to waiver of the [Fifth Amendment] privilege by or on behalf of children" and that "the greatest care must be taken to assure that . . . [a child's confession] was not the product of ignorance of rights or of adolescent fantasy, fright or despair." Id., at 55. Several years earlier, in Gallegos v. Colorado, 370 U.S. 49 (1962), the Court observed that "a 14- year-old boy, no matter how sophisticated, . . . is unable to know how to protect his own interests or how to get the benefits of his constitutional rights." Id., at 54. In both of these cases, convictions of [435 U.S. 957 , 959]

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