Duckworth v. Eagan
Annotate this Case
492 U.S. 195 (1989)
U.S. Supreme Court
Duckworth v. Eagan, 492 U.S. 195 (1989)
Duckworth v. Eagan
Argued March 29, 1989
Decided June 26, 1989
492 U.S. 195
Respondent, when first questioned by Indiana police in connection with a stabbing, made an exculpatory statement after being read and signing a waiver form that provided, inter alia, that if he could not afford a lawyer, one would be appointed for him "if and when you go to court." However, 29 hours later, he was interviewed again, signed a different waiver form, confessed to the stabbing, and led officers to a site where they recovered relevant physical evidence. Over respondent's objection, his two statements were admitted into evidence at trial. After the Indiana Supreme Court upheld his conviction for attempted murder, respondent sought a writ of habeas corpus in the District Court claiming, among other things, that his confession was inadmissible because the first waiver form did not comply with the requirements of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436. The District Court denied the petition, holding that the record clearly manifested adherence to Miranda. The Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that the advice that counsel will be appointed "if and when you go to court" was constitutionally defective, because it denied the indigent accused a clear and unequivocal warning of the right to appointed counsel before interrogation and linked that right to a future event.
Held: Informing a suspect that an attorney would be appointed for him "if and when you go to court" does not render Miranda warnings inadequate. Pp. 492 U. S. 200-205.
(a) Miranda warnings need not be given in the exact form described in Miranda, but simply must reasonably convey to a suspect his rights. The initial warnings given to respondent -- that he had a right to remain silent, that anything he said could be used against him in court, that he had the right to speak to an attorney before and during questioning, even if he could not afford to hire one, that he had the right to stop answering questions at any time until he talked to a lawyer, and that the police could not provide him with a lawyer, but one would be appointed "if and when you go to court" -- touched all of the bases required by Miranda. Pp. 492 U. S. 201-203.
(b) The Court of Appeals misapprehended the effect of the "if and when you go to court" language. This instruction accurately reflects Indiana's
procedure for appointment of counsel, which does not occur until a defendant's first court appearance, and it anticipates a suspect's question as to when he will obtain counsel. Pp. 492 U. S. 203-204.
(c) Miranda does not require that attorneys be producible on call, but only that the suspect be informed of his right to an attorney and to appointed counsel, and that, if the police cannot provide appointed counsel, they will not question him until he waives, as respondent did, his right to counsel. P. 492 U. S. 204.
(d) Respondent's reliance on California v. Prysock, 453 U. S. 355 -- which held that Miranda warnings would not be sufficient "if the reference to the right to appointed counsel was linked [to a] future point in time after police interrogation" -- is misplaced, since Prysock involved warnings that did not apprise the accused of his right to have an attorney present if he chose to answer questions. However, of the eight sentences in respondent's first warning, one described his right to counsel "before [the police] ask[ed] [him] questions," while another stated his right "to stop answering at any time until [he] talk[ed] to a lawyer." Pp. 492 U. S. 204-205.
843 F.2d 1554, reversed and remanded.
REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, O'CONNOR, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. O'CONNOR, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which SCALIA, J., joined, post, p. 492 U. S. 205. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, and in Part I of which BLACKMUN and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 492 U. S. 214.