481 U. S. 520
May 4, 1987
William Mauro murdered his own son, and was being held in custody at the police station. After being given the Miranda warning, he asked for a lawyer before any further questions. His wife showed up and begged to talk to him. The police allowed them to talk, but a police officer remained in the room, and recorded the conversation on a prominently placed tape recorder. During the conversation, Mauro made incriminating statements. Mauro tried to suppress this evidence, arguing that the police had effectively interrogated him by arranging and monitoring the conversation.
The Court ruled 5-4 that the police had not conducted interrogation. Powell wrote that the police were not intentionally trying to wrangle a confession from Mauro, and had legitimate non-interrogative reasons for monitoring the conversation (like preventing the transfer of contraband). That the police knew that incriminating words might be uttered did not matter, since getting those words was not the primary purpose of facilitating the meeting between the Mauros.
Stevens dissented, and was joined by Brennan, Marshall, and Blackmun. He emphasized that the standard for interrogation was conduct reasonably likely to elicit incriminating information. Because the police knew the conversation might produce such information, and even decided to record it just for that purpose, the police should be considered to have interrogated Mauro. Stevens also found it significant that the meeting was sprung on the husband, and that he seemed to have not wanted to talk to his wife at all. In sum, that the police had some good motives for arranging the meeting did not negate the interrogatory nature of the event.
It’s not stated outright, but a footnote suggests that William Mauro killed his son David because David had some mental disability. Two years later, Justice Blackmun would win accolades from the media for writing a stirring lament for another mentally disabled child named Joshua. To this day, that opinion is cited as evidence of Blackmun’s (alleged) compassion and big heart. Here, of course, as was par for him and the other liberals, the plight of innocent victims was far less important than trivial prophylactic protection for depraved murderers.