Joseph has an MA in Political Science.
Say you and a friend are driving around on a nice evening. You are stopped by the police and told that a vehicle matching your description was involved in a drive-by shooting earlier. You and your friend are taken into custody and brought to the police station. The police begin to question you, and you ask to speak to an attorney. Whether you committed the crime or not doesn't matter at this point. As a result of Escobedo v. Illinois (1964), the police have to immediately stop asking you questions and let you speak to an attorney.
Danny Escobedo's brother-in-law was killed on January 19, 1960. Escobedo was arrested the next morning and interrogated for several hours. He refused to give a statement to the police and was released. Another suspect in police custody gave a statement to the police indicating that Escobedo killed his brother-in-law because he was mistreating Escobedo's sister.
On January 30, 1960, Escobedo was arrested again. The police told him about the statement that the other suspect made. The police and prosecutors informed Escobedo that though he wasn't formally charged, he was in custody and could not leave. They kept him handcuffed and questioned him for fourteen and a half hours and refused his repeated request to speak with his attorney. Escobedo's attorney went to the police station and asked to speak with Escobedo, and he too was denied.
A Spanish-speaking officer was left alone with Escobedo and allegedly told him that if he blamed the other suspect for the murder, then he would be free to go. Escobedo confronted the suspect at the police department and blamed him for the murder. Though he never confessed, this was the first of several statements that Escobedo made about having knowledge of the crime. Escobedo was charged with murder, and the statements that he made to the police were used against him. Based on those statements, he was convicted. Escobedo appealed based on the fact that he was denied the right to counsel.
Escobedo initially appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which overturned the conviction, ruling that Escobedo's statements were not admissible. Escobedo understood he would be permitted to go home if he gave the statement and would be granted immunity from prosecution. The state filed a petition for a rehearing, and the Illinois Supreme Court reversed their initial ruling, stating that the officer denied making any promise to Escobedo, and they believed him. They found that his confession was voluntary and reinstated the conviction. Escobedo appealed that ruling to the United States Supreme Court.
After hearing the arguments from both sides, the United States Supreme Court ruled that when a police investigation begins to focus on one person who has requested and been denied counsel, that denial is a violation of the Sixth Amendment, and his statements to police are not admissible. The court reasoned that any system of criminal justice that depends on confessions to establish guilt is a flawed system. The police have an obligation to respect, maintain, and uphold the legal rights of its citizens. Once Escobedo asked for and was denied counsel, he was inherently forced to provide evidence against himself, which violates the Constitution.
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the United States Bill of Rights. It guarantees, in part, that a person accused of committing a crime shall have a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury, shall be informed of the charges against him, shall have the ability to confront witnesses, and shall have the assistance of an attorney for his defense.
Escobedo v. Illinois (1964) is a famous Supreme Court case on a suspect's right to counsel as outlined in the Sixth Amendment. Danny Escobedo was arrested for the murder of his brother-in-law. While being interrogated, he repeatedly asked to speak with his attorney. His attorney was at the police station and asked to speak with Escobedo. Both requests were denied as the police believed that Escobedo was not entitled to an attorney because, though he was not free to leave, he had not been formally charged.
Escobedo made statements that were later used against him, resulting in him being found guilty. Though the conviction was upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court, the United States Supreme Court overturned the conviction in part because the police violated Escobedo's rights under the Sixth Amendment.
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