401 U.S. 222 (1971), argued 17 Dec. 1970, decided 24 Feb. 1971 by vote of 5 to 4; Burger for the Court, Brennan, joined by Douglas and Marshall, in dissent, Black in dissent without opinion. Decided after Warren Burger and Harry Blackmun were appointed to the Supreme Court by President Richard Nixon, Harris was the first case to limit Miranda v. Arizona (1966). At his trial Harris testified in his own defense, denying that a bag sold to an undercover agent contained heroin. During police interrogation, however, which occurred without Harris being given the Miranda warnings, Harris had told a different story. To impeach his credibility, the prosection cross-examined Harris about his answers during police questioning. On appeal, Harris's counsel argued that Miranda prohibited reference to those answers when it said: “[S]tatements merely intended to be excul patory by the defendant are often used to impeach his testimony at trial…. These statements are incriminating in any meaningful sense of the word and may not be used without the full warnings and effective waiver … ” (p. 477).
The Court limited the Miranda exclusion to evidence presented in the prosecution's case-in-chief and permitted use of answers given without warnings for impeachment purposes when defendants chose to testify. Burger wrote that while Miranda can be read as prohibiting the use of an uncounseled statement for any purpose, such a reading was unnecessary to its logic and thus not controlling. Miranda, he maintained, was not a license to use perjury with no risk of being confronted with prior inconsistent statements.
Bradley C. Canon