EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Does a call to a legal services hotline satisfy the right to counsel?

In December, 2005, a Canadian court found 25 year-old George Osmond guilty of first degree murder based upon allegedly killing 13 year-old Kayla John.  The primary evidence against Osmond was a videotaped statement in which he admitted to the police that he killed John.

Osmond appealed to the B.C. Court of Appeals, which reversed the conviction, finding that the police did not do enough to provide Osmond with legal counsel following his arrest.  The justice hearing the case noted that Osmond's father and girlfriend, both of whom could have helped Osmond get a lawyer, were denied access to Osmond while he was being questioned.  The justice also noted that Osmond was able to make a 2 minute phone call to a legal services hotline, and a lawyer advised him to remain silent.

Osmond, however, subsequently confessed during a series of interviews with a police investigator.  The justice ackowledged that Osmond was able to talk with a lawyer for 2 minutes, but he found that this access was overwhelmed by a skilled investigator lawfully entitled to persuade him to ignore the lawyer's advice. 

I wonder how an American court might rule under similar circumstances.  Looking through Westlaw, I didn't find any case where an arrested individual made a call to a legal servuces hotline.

I'm aware that some courts have found that when an arrested individual makes a telephone call to his attorney, that act, in and of itself, constitutes the exercise of his right to counsel. See, e.g. United States v. Porter, 764 F.2d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 1985). 

-CM

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