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CU System
Supreme Court rules for suspect in CU robbery confession
WASHINGTON (4/8/09)--The Supreme Court ruled Monday that confessions obtained by federal authorities before a suspect's first court appearance may be inadmissible if more than six hours pass between the arrest and the court date. The case before the court , Corley v. U.S., was brought by a prisoner who had confessed to robbing a credit union in Norristown, Pa. The prisoner, Johnnie Corley, was arrested as a suspect in the June 2003 robbery of Norsco FCU. However, the arresting agents, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, waited 29 1/2 hours before his court appearance. During that time Corley confessed to the robbery (Associated Press April 6). He was later convicted and sentenced to 170 months in prison. The court ruled, 5-4, that long delays before a suspect sees a judge can provide the government with too much leverage over the person arrested. "Federal agents would be free to question suspects for extended periods before bringing them out in the open, and we have always known what custodial secrecy leads to," said Justice David Souter, who wrote the majority opinion. Federal law and court precedence indicate that confessions obtained within six hours of an arrest are presumed to be valid and may be used at a trial. The question before the court was what to do with confessions when there is a delay before the first court appearance. The court ordered lower courts to examine whether Corley's confession occurred during the first six hours he was in custody. If not, they would have to throw out the confession if the delay in the court appearance was "unreasonable or unnecessary." Voting with Souter were Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy and John Paul Stevens. Opposed were Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the dissenting opinion; Chief Justice John Roberts; and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Alito said that confessions that are voluntary should be admitted into evidence, regardless of the time elapsed. He noted that providing Miranda warnings have largely dealt with concerns about coerced confessions.


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