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IBA: Interrogations - Indiana to Provide More Safeguards; SCOTUS Takes Some Away

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Bell James Bell
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By James J. Bell and Meaghan E. Klem, Bingham McHale LLP

The effective date of Rule 617 of the Indiana Rules of Evidence is only a couple of weeks away. Rule 617 provides procedural safeguards for suspects in “Custodial Interrogation in a Place of Detention.” Rule 617 prohibits the admission of a statement of a defendant “[i]n a felony prosecution, . . . unless an Electronic Recording of the statement was made, preserved, and is available at trial.” While this Rule has several exceptions, its safeguards provide assurances that evidence of a suspect’s statements will be accurate when admitted at trial.

While the Supreme Court of Indiana is adding procedural safeguards to police interrogations, during its last term, the Supreme Court of the United States chipped away at a suspect’s Miranda rights. As shown below, in Florida v. Powell, Maryland v. Shatzer, and Berghuis v. Thompkins, the Court diminished the government’s burden in complying with Miranda and made it more difficult for a defendant to invoke his Miranda rights.

In Florida v. Powell, 130 S. Ct. 1195 (2010), the defendant was arrested and, prior to being interrogated, was read the police department’s “Consent and Release” form. This form warned the defendant that he had the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any of the officers’ questions and that if he could not afford a lawyer, one would be appointed before questioning. He was further told that he had the right to assert any of those rights at any time during the interview. During the course of the interrogation, the defendant made inculpatory statements. On appeal, the defendant argued that he was not properly informed of his Miranda right to have counsel present during his questioning. However, the Supreme Court found the warning provided to the defendant to be sufficient. “In combination. the two warnings reasonably conveyed Powell’s right to have an attorney present, not only at the outset of interrogation, but at all times.” Id. at 1205.

In Maryland v. Shatzer, 130 S. Ct. 1213 (2010), the Court limited the holding in Edwards v. Arizona, 101 S. Ct. 1880 (1981). Edwards created a presumption that once a suspect invoked his Miranda right to the presence of counsel, any waiver was to be deemed involuntary. Shatzer addressed a circumstance in which a suspect’s protections under Edwards expired.

In Shatzer, the defendant was imprisoned for one crime, and a detective attempted to interrogate him for a second crime. In the interrogation, the defendant was read his Miranda rights and invoked his right to have counsel present. The detective terminated the interview, and the defendant was released back into the general population of the prison. Two years later, a different detective went to the prison and again attempted to interrogate the defendant. On this occasion, the detective read the defendant his Miranda rights, and the defendant waived his right to counsel and made incriminating statements.

On appeal, the defendant argued that a mere passage of time did not terminate his Edwards protections. However, the Supreme Court held that because the defendant experienced a “break in Miranda custody” that lasted more than two weeks, suppression of the statement was not required. Id. at 1227. In reaching this decision, the Court noted that the purpose of Edwards was to prevent police from “badgering” a suspect. According to the Court, a suspect would be more likely to be coerced into making a statement if he was left in uninterrupted Miranda custody. However, when a suspect receives a “break in custody” and is allowed to return to his normal life, there is less likelihood of coercion.

Finally, in Berghuis v. Thompkins, 130 S. Ct. 2250 (2010), the Court considered a case where the defendant was arrested and interrogated for three hours. He was advised of his Miranda rights but remained largely silent for hours. Despite remaining silent, he never explicitly stated that he wished to invoke his Miranda rights. At the end of the interrogation, the defendant answered ‘yes’ to the question of whether he had prayed for forgiveness for his crime.

Ironically, the Court held that silence was not sufficient to invoke one’s right to silence. As pointed out by Justice Sotomayor’s dissent, in order to remain silent, one must “counterintuitively” speak. Id. at 2278. The Court held that a suspect must unambiguously invoke his right to remain silent. The defendant’s response to officers after hours of questioning demonstrated an implied waiver. Because proper warnings had been given and the defendant remained silent, there was no other coercion, and his eventual response constituted a waiver.•
 

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