h. In U.S. v. Alba, 15 MJ 573 (ACMR, 1983), the court explained that when
the suspect clearly says he wants a lawyer, the police are "precluded from
initiating" further interrogation. In U.S. v. Dillon, 11 MJ 92 (AFCMR, 1981),
the suspect said he wanted a lawyer when OSI agents interviewed him. Although
the interview was immediately stopped, 50 minutes later the suspect was again
advised of his rights and questioned, "before any attempt was made to obtain
counsel" for him.
This time, however, the suspect waived his rights and
The court ruled that "twice within an hour, while in continuous
custody, the accused was advised of his suspect rights and asked if he wished a
lawyer. Despite his initial request for a lawyer, he was not afforded counsel
prior to the second questioning." The court ruled that "bringing into question
the previously asserted right to counsel was unnecessary to ensure that the
accused understood his rights."
Since he had clearly requested counsel, the
subsequent confession was obtained in violation of his rights.
i. In U.S. v. Davis, 36 MJ 337 (CMA. 1993) Aff'd, 114 S.Ct 2350 (1994),
the Court of Military Appeals addressed the issue of when a suspect has invoked
his right to a lawyer. The accused was suspected of murdering a fellow sailor
by beating him to death with a pool cue for his failure to pay a gambling debt.
NIS agents properly advised Davis of his rights which he knowingly and
During the interrogation, the accused denied any
involvement in the murder. After about an hour and a half of interrogation,
the accused said, "Maybe I should talk to a lawyer."
The NIS agent stopped
questioning and sought to clarify the accused's intentions. When asked if he
wanted a lawyer, he said, "No, I don't want a lawyer."
The agent suggested
everyone take a short break.
The accused got a soda and returned to the
interrogation room. The agent reminded the accused of his rights, but did not
go through a complete rights advisement. The interrogation continued for about
an hour more with the accused making a few incriminating statements. Then he
said, "I think I want a lawyer before saying anything else." At this point,
the NIS agent ceased questioning and terminated the interview. The Court of
Military Appeals held that the accused had not invoked his right to a lawyer
when he said, "Maybe I should talk to a lawyer." Further, the agent correctly
clarified this ambiguous statement before questioning him further.
accused said he did not want a lawyer, the agent was free to continue
questioning without violating Miranda, Edwards, and Minnick. Also, the agent
was careful to remind the accused of his rights after their short break.
Finally, when the accused said, "I think I want a lawyer before saying anything
else," the agent treated this as a request for an attorney, ceased questioning
immediately, and "scrupulously honored" the accused's right to counsel.
United States Supreme Court took this case on appeal on the issue of whether or
not the accused's first statement constituted a request for an attorney. The
Court held that if a suspect makes an ambiguous or vague request for a lawyer,
the police do not have to stop questioning to clarify the ambiguity. "Rather,
the suspect must unambiguously request counsel." Basically after the suspect
knowingly and voluntarily waives his right to counsel, he has the burden of
making a clear request for an attorney before police are obligated to stop
questioning. The Court did add that it is the better police practice to clear
up the ambiguity as the NIS agent did in this case, but such clarification is
not constitutionally required.
Therefore, the Supreme Court and Court of