OREGON v ELSTAD
470 U.S. 298, 105 S. Ct. 1285, 84 L.Ed. 2d 222 (1985)
Officers Burke and McAllister of the Polk County, Oregon Sheriff’s office, on the basis of a witness’ statement, obtained an arrest warrant for Michael Elstad, who was suspected of burglary. The officers went to Elstad’s home and were escorted to his room by his mother. After instructing the respondent to dress and accompany them to the living room, Officer McAllister took Elstad’s mother into the kitchen while Officer Burke stayed with the respondent. Without advising Elstad of his Miranda rights, Officer Burke asked him whether he was aware of the officer’s reason for wanting to talk with him, and whether he knew Mr. and Mrs. Gross (the victims). Elstad stated that he knew the Grosses, and that he’d heard they’d been burglarized. Burke replied that he thought Elstad was involved in the burglary, and the respondent admitted, Yes, I was there. He was then taken to the Sheriff’s office and was subsequently advised of his Miranda rights. Elstad stated that he understood his rights and that he would give a statement, which he did in detail. His confession was read back to him and read by him. Elstad initialed and signed the statement and also added a sentence (After leaving the house Robby and I went back to the van and Robby handed me a small bag of grass) to it. Elstad maintained that at no time did the officers make threats or promises to him. He was charged with first degree burglary and opted against a jury trial. Defense immediately moved to suppress both Elstad’s initial verbal statement and the signed confession, contending that the initial statement he made at his house to Officer Burke let the cat out of the bag, causing his ensuing written confession to be tainted as fruit of the poisonous tree. The judge excluded the initial statement due to Elstad’s not having been informed of his Miranda rights prior to that statement. Elstad’s written confession was not excluded, as the judge did not agree that it was in any way tainted. Elstad was found guilty of first-degree burglary.
Oregon State Court of Appeals: Conviction reversed. The State contended that although the initial statement made by the respondent (prior to having been advised of his rights) should be inadmissible, his written confession should be allowed. The Court of Appeals, however, saw both statements as inadmissible, as there was little time between the two statements, and that was not enough time to insulate the latter statement from the effect of what went before the cat was sufficiently out of the bag to exert a coercive impact on respondent’s later admissions.
The Oregon Supreme Court declined the State’s petition for review. The State then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, and certiorari was granted.
The question in this case was whether the Self-Incrimination Clause of the Fifth Amendment requires that a confession made by a defendant, after having been advised of his Miranda rights and having waived those rights, should be excluded because of another admission made to officers by that defendant before he had been advised of his rights.
The Court cited the following cases to illustrate and establish precedence for its reasoning:
Wong Sun v. United States: Where it was established that evidence and witnesses discovered as the result of search in violation of the Fourth Amendment is considered fruit of the poisonous tree, and must be excluded. The fruit doctrine also applies to confessions. However, Wong Sun also illustrates that precise and proper advisement of Miranda rights serves to cure the condition that rendered the unwarned statement inadmissible: The warning conveys the relevant information and thereafter the suspect’s choice whether to exercise his privilege to remain silent should ordinarily be viewed as an act of free will. (371 U.S. at 486)
Brown v Illinois: Illustrates that a procedural Miranda violation differs from Fourth Amendment violation, as the purpose of the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule is to curb unreasonable search.
Harris v New York: The Harris Court rejected the premise that a defendant’s inadmissible confession entitles that defendant to deny every fact disclosed or discovered as ‘fruit’ of his confession, free from confrontation with his prior statements. (401 U.S.