Court grants case on time limit for requesting counsel (Jan. 26, 2009)

One of the cases on the docket of the Supreme Court is the Fifth Amendment case, which is supposed to be Sotomayor’s strong point, Maryland v. Shatzer.

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a time limit exists to the Fifth Amendment prohibition on police questioning once a suspect invokes a request for counsel.

Michael Blaine Shatzer was sentenced to a 12-year prison term in 2002 for sexual abuse of a child. The next year, police started investigating allegations that he had sexually also abused his three-year-old son. Shatzer requested an attorney and the case was dropped for the next two years and seven months.

In 2006, a social work filed a new referral when the child, now older, was able to make more specific allegations. At this time, a different police officer questioned Shatzer again about the case, he was advised of his rights and signed a form waiving them before confessing to masturbating in front of his son, from a distance of about three feet away.

After Shatzer was charged, he filed a motion to suppress his statements, arguing that he had asked for an attorney in the case before. The Circuit Court for Washington County rejected his argument.

In August 2008, the Court of Appeals of Maryland reversed, ruling 5-2 that the Supreme Court set no time limit in its 1981 decision, Edwards v. Arizona, prohibiting police from continuing to question a suspect who has requested counsel.

On Jan. 26, the Supreme Court accepted the case for review.

Question presented: Whether the Edwards v. Arizona prohibition against interrogation of a suspect who has invoked the Fifth Amendment right to counsel is inapplicable if, after the suspect asks for counsel, there is a break of more than two years before commencing reinterrogation.

On the Docket

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