Escobedo v. Illinois

Following is the case brief for Escobedo v. Illinois, United States Supreme Court, (1964)

Case summary for Escobedo v. Illinois:

  • Twenty-two year old Escobedo was taken into custody for questioning regarding a murder. Escobedo repeatedly asked for his attorney and was denied.
  • Another suspect, Di Gerlando, was at the station and told officers that Escobedo shot and killed the victim. Police then brought both men into the same room where Escobedo confessed.
  • Escobedo was never informed of his right to remain silent and was later convicted of murder at trial. Escobedo appealed his conviction.
  • The Court held that once the process “shifts from investigatory to accusatory — when its focus is on the accused and its purpose is to elicit a confession — our adversary system begins to operate, and……the accused must be permitted to consult with his lawyer.”

Escobedo v. Illinois Case Brief

Statement of the facts:  

Escobedo was arrested as a murder suspect and taken down to the police station for questioning. En Route, Escobedo requested to speak to his lawyer on the way to the station in addition to several other times once at the station. At this time, Escobedo’s lawyer was present at the police station and asked to speak with Escobedo, however the request was denied. A  second murder suspect, Di Gerlando, was also in custody at the station and implicated Escobedo as firing the deadly shot. After putting both Escobedo and Di Gerlando in the same room for further questioning, Escobedo confessed to murdering the victim. At trial Escobedo was found guilty of murder and appealed to the supreme court of Illinois.

Procedural History:

The state supreme court affirmed the trial court’s decision and Escobedo appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law or Legal Principle Applied:

Once a suspect has been taken into police custody for purposes of questioning, if the suspect asks for and is denied an attorney, and the police have not provided the suspect with the proper Miranda warning, confessions procured from the interrogation, made after the denial are inadmissible.

Issue and Holding:

Whether a confession is admissible once the suspect has been taken into custody by the police, asked for counsel and was denied and received no Miranda warning? No.


The Supreme Court reversed the state supreme court’s judgment.


  • The Court held that once the interaction shifts from “investigatory to accusatory –when its focus is on the accused and its purpose is to elicit a confession — our adversary system begins to operate….” and, under the facts set out in the present case, the accused must be permitted to consult with his lawyer.

When the initial inquiry moves from investigatory to accusatory, the accused must be provided access to his lawyer. Any confession made during the remainder of the interrogation becomes inadmissible.

Here, the overall investigation began to shift in focus to specifically accusing Escobedo and Di Gerlando as the suspects. At this point, Escobedo was in custody and requested his lawyer several times. The Court held that such a police’s refusal violates Escobedo’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel and renders the subsequent incriminating statement inadmissible.

The Court also addressed the concern of the right to counsel attaching pretrial where many feel that the right attaching pretrial would be devastating to law enforcement since they obtains many confessions at that stage. However, this very reasoning fortifies the argument that the right to counsel should attach early on in the judicial process to prevent injustice.

Concurring or Dissenting opinion:

Dissenting (Stewart):

The Court improperly disregards an important fact which distinguishes the present case from the precedent set out in Massiah v. United States, 377 U.S. 201 (1964). Here, the interrogation happened before any formal legal proceedings occurred. The Sixth Amendment right to counsel attaches where the formal judicial proceedings begin and the criminal investigation is over.

Dissent (Harlan):

The Majority’s decision “seriously and unjustifiably fetters perfectly legitimate methods of criminal law enforcement.”

Dissenting (White):

Here, Escobedo’s knew that he had the right to remain silent. His statements were not compelled by the police and the Court should continue to use the totality of the circumstances test to guide its decision.


This case stressed the importance of permitting the accused to utilize his Sixth Amendment constitutional right to an attorney once the initial police inquiry shifts from investigatory to accusatory in nature.

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