A defendant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel is a fundamental pillar of our criminal justice system. The Sixth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant the right to a lawyer during any critical stage of a criminal proceeding. There is perhaps no time when an accused party's right to counsel becomes more important than during an interrogation. It is clear that the government cannot deliberately elicit information from an accused party in the absence of his or her lawyer. "Deliberate elicitation," however, becomes difficult to define or detect when the government employs indirect methods of interrogation; rather than overt questioning, to obtain information from an accused party. One such indirect method, the use of jailhouse informants, presents special constitutional problems because of the unique dynamics that exist in a jail cell encounter between an unsuspecting defendant and an undercover informant, Courts have struggled to apply the Sixth Amendment's prohibition on the elicitation of information in the absence of counsel to situations involving jailhouse informants. The U.S. Supreme Court has directly considered the issue twice and has reached conflicting results despite strong factual similarities. This Note proposes a new standard for detecting right-to-counsel violations in the jailhouse informant context, a two-tiered inquiry that attempts to address the unique constitutional problems that the use of jailhouse informants creates.
Matthew J. Merritt, Jailhouse Informants and the Sixth Amendment: Is the U.S. Supreme Court Adequately Protecting an Accused's Right to Counsel?, 44 B.C.L. Rev. 1323 (2003), https://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol44/iss4/15