Cicenia v. LaGay, 357 U.S. 504 (1958)

Newark police asked Cicenia to report for questioning in a murder case. Cicenia went to the police at 9:00 the next morning. Cicenia’s attorney visited the station and asked to see Cicenia throughout the afternoon and evening. Meanwhile, Cicenia was asking to see his lawyer. The two were not permitted to confer until 9:30 pm, when Cicenia had already signed a confession.

The lower courts decided New Jersey’s refusal to permit Cicenia counsel during the inquiry did not deprive him of due process.

A five-member majority affirmed, relying on Crooker v. California, which allowed police to refuse to honor a general request to consult with a lawyer. The majority acknowledged that, unlike Crooker, Cicenia had already retained a lawyer, but ultimately reached the same conclusion. They admitted a ‘‘strong distaste’’ for New Jersey’s tactics, but found no constitutional violation.

The Court acknowledged the right to counsel is critical, but only ‘‘one pertinent element in determining from all the circumstances whether a conviction was attended by fundamental unfairness.’’ Because requiring the police to permit accused persons to see an attorney ‘‘might impair [their] ability to solve difficult cases,’’ the Court refrained from ‘‘laying down any such inflexible rule.’’

The dissent argued the right to counsel is ‘‘fundamental and absolute.’’ Citing Crooker’s dissent, they lamented, we ‘‘regret that we have not taken this case . . . as the occasion to bring our decisions into tune with the constitutional requirement for fair criminal proceedings against the citizen.’’

Miranda expressly overruled Cicenia.

SARA FAHERTY

Cases and Statutes Cited

  • Crooker v. California, 357 U.S. 433 (1958)
  • Miranda v. Arizona, 384 US 436 (1966)

See also Coerced Confession/Police Interrogation

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