Thompson v. Keohane

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Thompson v. Keohane

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Argued October 11, 1995
Decided November 29, 1995
Full case nameCarl Thompson, Petitioner v. Patrick Keohane, Warden, et al.

516 U.S. 99 ( more )

116 S. Ct. 457; 133 L. Ed. 2d 383; 1995 U.S. LEXIS 8315; 64 U.S.L.W. 4027; 95 Cal. Daily Op. Service 8968; 95 Daily Journal DAR 15680
Argument Oral argument
Prior history On writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) does not apply in custody rulings for Miranda.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens  · Sandra Day O'Connor
Antonin Scalia  · Anthony Kennedy
David Souter  · Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg  · Stephen Breyer
Case opinions
Majority Ginsburg, joined by Stevens, O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, Breyer
Dissent Thomas, joined by Rehnquist
Laws applied
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)

Thompson v. Keohane, 516 U.S. 99(1995), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) does not apply in custody rulings for Miranda.

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The United States Reports are the official record of the rulings, orders, case tables, in alphabetical order both by the name of the petitioner and by the name of the respondent, and other proceedings of the Supreme Court of the United States. United States Reports, once printed and bound, are the final version of court opinions and cannot be changed. Opinions of the court in each case are prepended with a headnote prepared by the Reporter of Decisions, and any concurring or dissenting opinions are published sequentially. The Court's Publication Office oversees the binding and publication of the volumes of United States Reports, although the actual printing, binding, and publication are performed by private firms under contract with the United States Government Publishing Office.

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The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. Established pursuant to Article III of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, it has original jurisdiction over a small range of cases, such as suits between two or more states, and those involving ambassadors. It also has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all federal court and state court cases that involve a point of federal constitutional or statutory law. The Court has the power of judicial review, the ability to invalidate a statute for violating a provision of the Constitution or an executive act for being unlawful. However, it may act only within the context of a case in an area of law over which it has jurisdiction. The Court may decide cases having political overtones, but it has ruled that it does not have power to decide nonjusticiable political questions. Each year it agrees to hear about 100–150 of the more than 7,000 cases that it is asked to review.



Investigation and arrest

In September 1986, the body of a dead woman was discovered by two hunters in Fairbanks, Alaska. [1] The woman had been stabbed 29 times. [2] To gain assistance identifying the body, the police issued a press release with a description of the woman. Carl Thompson called the police station and identified the body as Dixie Thompson, his former wife. [3] The police asked Thompson to come into the station under the pretense of identifying personal items found with the body, but it was the intention of the police to question Thompson about the murder. [4] [5]

Fairbanks, Alaska City in Alaska, United States

Fairbanks is a home rule city and the borough seat of the Fairbanks North Star Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska.

Alaska State of the United States of America

Alaska is a U.S. state in the northwest extremity of North America, just across the Bering Strait from Asia. The Canadian province of British Columbia and territory of Yukon border the state to the east, its most extreme western part is Attu Island, and it has a maritime border with Russia to the west across the Bering Strait. To the north are the Chukchi and Beaufort seas—southern parts of the Arctic Ocean. The Pacific Ocean lies to the south and southwest. It is the largest state in the United States by area and the seventh largest subnational division in the world. In addition, it is the 3rd least populous and the most sparsely populated of the 50 United States; nevertheless, it is by far the most populous territory located mostly north of the 60th parallel in North America: its population—estimated at 738,432 by the United States Census Bureau in 2015— is more than quadruple the combined populations of Northern Canada and Greenland. Approximately half of Alaska's residents live within the Anchorage metropolitan area. Alaska's economy is dominated by the fishing, natural gas, and oil industries, resources which it has in abundance. Military bases and tourism are also a significant part of the economy.

Thompson came to the police station and was questioned for two hours. Two plainclothes officers performed the interrogation in an interview room. Thompson was not read his Miranda rights and throughout the interrogation he was told that he was free to leave. [6] The police told Thompson that they knew he killed his former wife and eventually Thompson confessed to the murder. [7] Thompson was allowed to leave the police station, but then was arrested shortly thereafter.

Trial and conviction

Thompson was charged with first-degree murder and put on trial. During the trial, an attempt was made to suppress Thompson's confession because he was not read his Miranda rights. [8] [9] The attempt was denied because the trial court ruled that Thompson was not in police custody and thus the police did not have to read Thompson his Miranda rights. [10] The court concluded that Thompson was not in custody because he came to the police station freely and was told he was free to leave at any time. [11] The prosecution was allowed to play Thompson's tape-recorded confession and the jury convicted Thompson of first-degree murder. [12]


Thompson first attempted to appeal the ruling that he was not in police custody. The Alaska Court of Appeals upheld the ruling of the trial court and Alaska Supreme Court decided not to hear the case. [13]

The Alaska Court of Appeals is an intermediate court of appeals in the State of Alaska's judicial department, created in 1980 by the Alaska Legislature as an additional appellate court to lessen the burden on the Alaska Supreme Court. The court of appeals consists of a chief judge and two associate judges, who are all appointed by the governor of Alaska and face judicial retention elections every eight years; the chief judge of the court of appeals is selected from among the three by the chief justice of the supreme court to serve a two-year term.

The Alaska Supreme Court is the state supreme court in the State of Alaska's judiciary.

Thompson then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the District of Alaska. The district court deferred to the judgement of the state courts under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), which states that in most circumstances questions of fact are presumed correct by appeals courts. [14] The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling without publishing an opinion. [15] The Supreme Court decided to hear the case and granted certiorari.

United States District Court for the District of Alaska

The United States District Court for the District of Alaska is a federal court in the Ninth Circuit.

Certiorari, often abbreviated cert. in the United States, is a process for seeking judicial review and a writ issued by a court that agrees to review. A certiorari is issued by a superior court, directing an inferior court, tribunal, or other public authority to send the record of a proceeding for review.

Opinion of the Court

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg authored the opinion for the majority. It held that 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) does not apply in custody rulings for Miranda. [16] As noted previously, 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) states that federal courts assume state courts to be correct in factual questions. However the Court found that the question of custody for Miranda purposes was mixed question of both fact and law. [17] [18] The Court remanded the case to the Ninth Circuit and instructed them to decide whether Thompson was in custody or not. [19]


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