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United States Supreme Court

394 U.S. 324

Orozco  v.  Texas

 Argued: Feb. 26, 1969. --- Decided: March 25, 1969


The petitioner, Reyes Arias Orozco, was convicted in the Criminal District Court of Dallas County, Texas, of murder without malice and was sentenced to serve in the state prison not less than two nor more than 10 years. The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas affirmed the conviction, rejecting petitioner's contention that a material part of the evidence against him was obtained in violation of the provision of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, that: 'No person * * * shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.' [1]

The evidence introduced at trial showed that petitioner and the deceased had quarreled outside the El Farleto Cafe in Dallas shortly before midnight on the date of the shooting. The deceased had apparently spoken to petitioner's female companion inside the restaurant. In the heat of the quarrel outside, the deceased is said to have beaten petitioner about the face and called him 'Mexican Grease.' A shot was fired killing the deceased. Petitioner left the scene and returned to his boardinghouse to sleep. At about 4 a.m. four police officers arrived at petitioner's boardinghouse, were admitted by an unidentified woman, and were told that petitioner was asleep in the bedroom. All four officers entered the bedroom and began to question petitioner. From the moment he gave his name, according to the testimony of one of the officers, petitioner was not free to go where he pleased but was 'under arrest.' The officers asked him if he had been to the El Farleto restaurant that night and when he answered 'yes' he was asked if he owned a pistol. Petitioner admitted owning one. After being asked a second time where the pistol was located, he admitted that it was in the washing machine in a backroom of the boardinghouse. Ballistics tests indicated that the gun found in the washing machine was the gun that fired the fatal shot. At petitioner's trial, held after the effective date [2] of this Court's decision in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694, 10 A.L.R.3d 974 (1966), the trial court allowed one of the officers, over the objection of petitioner's lawyer, [3] to relate the statements made by petitioner concerning the gun and petitioner's presence at the scene of the shooting. The trial testimony clearly shows that the officers questioned petitioner about incriminating facts without first informing him of his right to remain silent, his right to have the advice of a lawyer before making any statement, and his right to have a lawyer appointed to assist him if he could not afford to hire one. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held, with one judge dissenting, that the admission of testimony concerning the statements petitioner had made without the above warnings was not precluded by Miranda. We disagree and hold that the use of these admissions obtained in the absence of the required warnings was a flat violation of the Self-Incrimination Clause of the Fifth Amendment as construed in Miranda.

The State has argued here that since petitioner was interrogated on his own bed, in familiar surroundings, our Miranda holding should not apply. It is true that the Court did say in Miranda that 'compulsion to speak in the isolated setting of the police station may well be greater than in courts or other official investigations, where there are often impartial observers to guard against intimidation or trickery.' 384 U.S., at 461, 86 S.Ct., at 1621. But the opinion iterated and reiterated the absolute necessity for officers interrogating people 'in custody' to give the described warnings. See Mathis v. United States, 391 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1503, 20 L.Ed.2d 381 (1968). According to the officer's testimony, petitioner was under arrest and not free to leave when he was questioned in his bedroom in the early hours of the morning. The Miranda opinion declared that the warnings were required when the person being interrogated was 'in custody at the station or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.' 384 U.S., at 477, 86 S.Ct., at 1629. (Emphasis supplied.) The decision of this Court in Miranda was reached after careful consideration and lengthy opinions were announced by both the majority and dissenting Justices. There is no need to canvass those arguments again. We do not, as the dissent implies, expand or extend to the slightest extent our Miranda decision. We do adhere to our well-considered holding in that case and therefore reverse [4] the conviction below.

Reversed.

Mr. Justice FORTAS took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

NotesEdit

^1  The state court also rejected a contention that use of the evidence also violated the Fourth Amendment's provision against unreasonable searches and seizures. Our holding makes it unnecessary for us to consider that contention.

^2  See Jo nson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719, 86 S.Ct. 1772, 16 L.Ed.2d 882 (1966).

^3  The State appears to urge that petitioner's Miranda claim is unreviewable in this Court because the objection made by trial counsel to the officer's testimony was not sufficiently 'specific.' We fail to perceive how this could be an adequate state ground in view of the fact that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals specifically decided that the introduction of petitioner's statement made to the officers 'was not precluded under Miranda v. State of Arizona,' 428 S.W.2d 666, 672, while the dissenting judge thought that it was.

^4  In light of some apparent misunderstanding on this point, it is perhaps appropriate to point out once again that a reversal by this Court of a conviction based in part on unconstitutional evidence leaves the State free to retry the defendant without the tainted evidence.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).