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Rhode Island v. Innes 446 U.S. 291 (1980)

RHODE ISLAND v. INNES 446 U.S. 291 (1980)

Innes explained the meaning of "interrogation" under miranda v. arizona (1966). Miranda declared, "If the individual states that he wants an attorney, the interrogation must cease until an attorney is present." Everyone agreed that the suspect in Innes had received his Miranda warnings and invoked his right to counsel, and that he was in custody. The question was whether he had been interrogated.

Police arrested a man suspected of a shotgun murder. Repeatedly they advised him of his Miranda rights, and a captain instructed officers about to transport him to the stationhouse not to question him in any way. During a brief automobile ride, one officer said to another, within the suspect's hearing, that they ought to try to find the shotgun because a child might discover it and kill herself. The suspect promptly volunteered to take the police to the shotgun. Again the police gave the Miranda warnings. The suspect replied that he understood his rights but wanted the gun removed from the reach of children. His statements and the gun were introduced in evidence at his trial, over his objection. The state supreme court reversed his conviction, finding a violation of Miranda.

A 6–3 Supreme Court decided that the police had not interrogated the suspect. Justice potter stewart for the majority construed Miranda broadly to mean that interrogation includes questioning or a "functional equivalent"—any words or actions by the police reasonably likely to elicit any response from their suspect. Here there was no interrogation, only a spontaneous admission. The dissenters believed that an officer deliberately referred to the missing gun as a danger to innocent children in the hope of eliciting from the suspect an incriminating statement; whether that happened cannot be known. If the Court majority had believed that the officer making the remark had understood the suspect's psychological makeup and that an appeal to his conscience might have worked, that majority would have decided that the suspect had been interrogated. Contrary to the view of Justice john paul stevens, dissenting, Miranda was not narrowed.

Leonard W. Levy

(see also: Police Interrogations and Confessions.)

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