(1977), a U.S. Supreme Court decision. A ten year old girl disappeared at the
Des Moines, Iowa, YMCA while watching her brother in a wrestling tournament on
A teenaged witness later told police that Mr. Williams, a
mental patient and a resident of the YMCA, had taken a bundle wrapped in a
blanket from the YMCA about the time the girl disappeared. When Mr. Williams
placed this bundle in the back seat of his car, the witness noticed two white
skinny legs protruding from the blanket. Mr. Williams immediately became the
subject of a police manhunt. The day after Christmas, after consulting with a
lawyer, he agreed to turn himself in to police. Two Des Moines detectives were
dispatched about 160 miles away to pick up Mr. Williams.
At that time the
girl's body had not been discovered.
With Mr. Williams in the detectives'
vehicle, one of the detectives who knew him to be a religious man said to him,
"I want to give you something to think about while we are traveling
down the road... Number one, I want you to observe the weather
conditions, it is raining, it is sleeting, it is freezing, driving
is very treacherous, visibility is poor, it is going to be dark
early this evening. They are predicting several inches of snow for
tonight, and I feel that you are the only person that knows where
this little girl's body is, that you yourself have only been there
once, and if you get a snow on top of it, you yourself may be unable
to find it. And, since we will be going right past the area on the
way into Des Moines, I feel that we could stop and locate the body,
that the parents of this little girl should be entitled to a
Christian burial for the little girl who was snatched away from them
on Christmas Eve and murdered. And I feel we should stop and locate
it on the way in rather than waiting until morning and trying to
come back out after a snowstorm and possibly not being able to find
it at all."
2. The suspect thought about it for awhile, and then directed the police to
the body. On appeal, he argued that he had been interrogated in violation of
his rights. The U.S. Supreme Court held that "there can be no serious doubt...
that Detective Leaming deliberately set out to elicit information from Williams
just as surely as -- and perhaps more effectively -- than if he had formally
interrogated him... he purposely sought... to obtain as much incriminating
information as possible." The detective, then, had used psychology "with the
specific intent to elicit incriminating statements."
The conviction was
3. A similar issue arose in Rhode Island v. Innis, 64 L.Ed.2d 297 (1980).
There, a suspect was arrested for the shotgun slaying of a taxicab driver. The
suspect was placed in a police vehicle and was driven back to headquarters in
the company of three police officers. While en route, one of the officers said
to another officer:
"I frequent this area while on patrol, and because a school for
handicapped children is located nearby, there is a lot of
handicapped children running around in this area, and God forbid one
of them might find a weapon with shells and they might hurt