Winston Massiah and a codefendant, Colson, were indicted in 1958 for possession of narcotics aboard a United States vessel. Massiah pled not guilty, retained a lawyer, and was released on bail. Shortly thereafter, Colson agreed to cooperate with the government and to have a radio transmitter installed in his car, which was subsequently used to transmit a conversation between Massiah and Colson to a federal agent parked nearby. At his trial, incriminating statements made by Massiah during that conversation were introduced over defense counsel's objections, and Massiah was convicted. In reversing his conviction the Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment prohibits deliberate elicitation by the government or its agents of incriminating information from a defendant after he has been indicted and in the absence of his counsel. Massiah v. United States, 377 U.S. 201 (1964).
Massiah is clearly understood to stand for the proposition that deliberate elicitation of incriminating statements by government agents after the proceedings against the defendant have become adversarial is impermissible. The rationale is that, to preserve the functional integrity of our adversarial system, it is vital that, once proceedings have been initiated, attempts to circumvent the protections afforded by counsel can not be tolerated. See United States v. Henry, 447 U.S. 264 (1980).
In Michigan v. Jackson, 475 U.S. 625, 636 (1986), the Supreme Court created a bright-line rule that “if police initiate interrogation after a defendant’s assertion, at an arraignment or similar proceeding, of his right to counsel, any waiver of the defendant’s right to counsel for that police-initiated interrogation is invalid.” Jackson was overruled by Montejo v. Louisiana, 129 S.Ct. 2079 (2009). There, the Supreme Court found that a valid waiver of counsel can occur after counsel is appointed provided that the defendant is properly advised of his or her rights. Under Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981), a defendant who invokes the right to counsel during custodial interrogation may not be subject to further interrogation until either counsel has been made available or the defendant initiates exchanges with the police. This rule does not apply, however, if there is a break in the custody lasting 14 days or longer. Maryland v. Shatzer, 130 S.Ct. 1213 (2010).
Click here to view a list of successful Massiah/Henry cases, last updated September 2010.