454 U.S. 988 (1981)

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U.S. Supreme Court

SNEAD v. STRINGER , 454 U.S. 988 (1981)

454 U.S. 988

Roy SNEAD, Jr., Sheriff of Calhoun County, Alabama, et al.
No. 80-2017

Supreme Court of the United States

November 2, 1981

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice REHNQUIST, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and Justice O'CONNOR join, dissenting.

This case offers an instructive example of a phenomenon not uncommon in constitutional law. The Constitution is a

Page 454 U.S. 988 , 989

written document, but cases and controversies involving its provisions necessarily result in opinions from this Court. Those opinions themselves contain aphorisms, whose resemblance to the actual text of the Constitution grows increasingly remote as they are used as substitutes for the text itself, applied to wholly different situations than that addressed in the original case, or simply used as convenient "catchwords" to justify a given result. In my opinion, that is what has happened here. Constitutional building blocks have been piled on top of one another so that the connection between the original provision in the Constitution and the application in a particular case is all but incomprehensible.

Massiah v. United States, 377 U.S. 201, 206, 1203 (1964), reversed the conviction of an accused on the ground that he had been 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." One building block was used to reach that result. Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45 (1932), held that a trial court's failure to appoint counsel in a capital case until the trial began violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it deprived the defendants of an opportunity to consult with an attorney, and have him investigate their case and prepare a defense. In Massiah, the Court implicitly concluded that the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of the assistance of counsel includes a promise of the companionship of counsel, at least when an interrogation takes place following the initiation of criminal proceedings. [Footnote 1] But Massiah was further expanded in Brewer v. Williams, 430 U.S. 387 (1977), at least insofar as the latter case appeared to establish an extremely heavy burden which the prosecution must carry to demonstrate waiver [454 U.S. 988 , 990]

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