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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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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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