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‘Am I going to need an attorney?’ is not request for attorney, rules COA

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A suspect’s question during interrogation as to whether he’d need an attorney is not considered a request for an attorney, thus requiring police to stop interrogating him, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

In Jason King v. State of Indiana, 64A04-1209-CR-464, Jason King appealed his conviction and 45-year sentence for attempted murder after shooting Woodrow McGuire in the jaw at a nightclub. He claimed that during an interrogation, he asked for an attorney, but police kept questioning him.

During a recorded interrogation regarding the crime, King uttered the words, “an attorney,” in a sentence otherwise inaudible on the recording. The interrogating officer continued to question King, and he eventually confessed to shooting McGuire.

King testified that the inaudible sentence was, “I do need to make a call to call an attorney.” The interrogating officer testified that King asked, “Am I going to need an attorney?” The trial court found the officer’s testimony as to what was said was more likely than what King claimed he said.

The state presented the jury with the testimony of the interrogating officer, who stated that King confessed to shooting McGuire during the interrogation. King did not object to the admission of this evidence.

The Court of Appeals upheld King’s conviction and sentence, believing the trial court’s finding is supported on the record. The trial court reviewed the recording and the testimony of the two men to conclude: “The speech before the words [‘]an attorney[’] is more consistent with [‘]am I going to need an attorney[’] than a longer phrase, which is, [‘]I do need to make a call to call an attorney.[’]”

Because King didn’t object to the officer’s testimony at trial, he waived the issue that his confession should have been suppressed. But waiver notwithstanding, the COA concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that King did not request an attorney at the 1:02 mark of the second interrogation.

“King’s question, ‘Am I going to need an attorney?’ does not rise to the level of clarity from which a reasonable officer would understand that an attorney has been requested,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote.

The judges also upheld the 45-year sentence, which they found appropriate given the troubling reasons cited as to why King shot McGuire: because the victim was black and leaning on King at a bar.
 

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