Butler v. McKellar

494 U.S. 407 (1990)

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Butler v. McKellar

United States Supreme Court
494 U.S. 407 (1990)

  • Written by Liz Nakamura, JD

Facts

After Pamela Lane was murdered, Horace Butler (plaintiff) was arrested on an unrelated assault charge. Butler retained counsel for the assault charge. While in police custody, Butler was informed he was a suspect in the Lane murder and was interrogated without his counsel being present. The interrogation was conducted in strict compliance with then-current law. Based on statements Butler made during the interrogation, he was convicted of murdering Lane and sentenced to death. After Butler exhausted the direct appeal process, his conviction became final. Butler then filed a petition for federal habeas corpus as a collateral attack on his conviction. Butler argued that (1) pursuant to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Arizona v. Roberson, although Butler’s counsel was originally retained for the assault charge, Butler should not have been interrogated regarding Lane’s murder without his counsel present; (2) because the interrogation violated Roberson, Butler’s incriminating statements should have been suppressed; and (3) although Roberson was decided after Butler’s conviction was finalized, it should have been applied retroactively because it was not a new rule. The Fourth Circuit denied Butler’s petition, holding that Roberson was a new rule and therefore was not retroactively applicable on collateral review. Butler appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, C.J.)

Dissent (Brennan, J.)

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