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Death of the Sixth Amendment's "Closely Related" Doctrine

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Quarterly Volume: 30 Issue: 2 Dated: Summer 2001 Pages: 26-29
Robert Phillips
Date Published
4 pages
This article examines the applications of the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of the representation of an attorney at all critical stages of a prosecution when a given person is involved with police interviews regarding two or more offenses, where one has been charged but the other has not.
The U.S. Supreme Court has addressed this issue in Texas v. Cobb (2001). Cobb committed a residential burglary, which he eventually admitted. He did not admit, however, to any participation in the simultaneous disappearance of the wife and child who lived at the burgled residence. After arraignment on the burglary, the police questioned him again about the disappearance of the two victims, and Cobb admitted to having killed them. Despite the factual overlap of the burglary and murders, the U.S. Supreme Court found that because each offense (burglary and murder) requires evidence of different facts, double jeopardy would not have precluded separate prosecutions; therefore, the officers did not violate the Sixth Amendment by questioning Cobb about the murders without the presence of an attorney, even though he had already been charged with burglary. The "Cobb" decision makes it clear that the application of the Sixth Amendment is offense specific. When a person has been charged with one offense but may be interviewed by police regarding another uncharged offense, even though it may be associated in time with the charged offense, the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of the presence of an attorney does not apply in connection with the uncharged offense. The key issue is whether the offenses are sufficiently different as to allow for separate prosecutions. This article discusses these issues in relation to a case currently pending before the California Supreme Court, the case of Dominic D. Slayton.