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Maine v. Moulton

United States Supreme Court
474 U.S. 159 (1985)


Moulton (defendant) and co-defendant Colson were arrested under suspicion of receiving stolen property. After being released on bail, the two defendants met and Moulton suggested killing a key witness. After the meeting, Colson gave a full confession. The police offered Colson immunity from any further prosecution in exchange for cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of Moulton. Colson agreed and the police installed a recording device on his telephone. Colson had three telephone conversations with Moulton. When Moulton arranged to meet Colson in person, the police asked Colson to wear a hidden recording device. The police told Colson not to actively question Moulton about his involvement in the alleged crimes. During the conversation, Colson brought up Moulton’s previous suggestion about killing witnesses. After Moulton stated that he did not think that killing witnesses would work, the conversation turned to the development of false alibis. The conversation about alibis involved extensive discussion of the defendants’ criminal activities. Colson encouraged Moulton to give details of several criminal acts by pretending not to remember certain details and by instigating the exchange of stories relating to particular crimes. The recording was admitted into evidence during Moulton’s trial. Moulton was convicted and appealed his conviction through the state courts. The state supreme court reversed his conviction on grounds that admission of the recorded statements into evidence violated Moulton’s Sixth Amendment right to the assistance of counsel. The State of Maine appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Brennan, J.)

Dissent (Burger, C.J.)

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