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Inside the Criminal Case: Technology aids review of questioning technique

James J. Bell , K. Michael Gaerte
January 15, 2014
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Inside CC Bell GaerteDanielle Kelly v. State is the first time that the Indiana Supreme Court has addressed law enforcement’s use of the “question first, Mirandize second” questioning technique. 997 N.E.2d 1045 (Ind. 2013). Kelly also provides additional focus on the role technology plays in the changing scope of suspect/law enforcement interaction.

Danielle Kelly v. State

In Kelly, police were called to the home of an ostensible Good Samaritan. Id. at 1-2. In an effort to clean up her neighborhood, the caller informed police that she knew of a man who was dealing cocaine at local bars. Id. Not content with leaving law enforcement up to law enforcement officers, the caller also told police that she had arranged for the individual to deliver cocaine to her house but that she didn’t have any money to make the purchase and wanted to make sure the police were there when he arrived so that they could intervene. Id. After officers arrived at the caller’s home, so did the alleged cocaine dealer. Id. at 2-3. Kelly, the dealer’s cousin, was a passenger and owner of the car he was driving. Id. at 3. Kelly was detained. Id. Before being Mirandized, she admitted she was aware of the presence of cocaine in the vehicle. Id. at 3-4. Minutes later, she was read her Miranda rights, and questioning resumed. Id. at 4-5. When she then denied knowledge of the cocaine, the officers reminded her that she’d already admitted to the same prior to being Mirandized, leading her to make the admission again. Id. at 5-6. After her arrest, officers searched the car and found cocaine. Id. at 3.

Timing of Miranda rights and surrounding circumstances

Under the right circumstances, the “question first, Mirandize second” technique is permissible. See Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S 298 (1985). However, the presence of additional factors can alter the constitutionality of the technique.

For example, if the officer is aggressive, the original conversation is detailed, the content of both conversations is the same and the two episodes are closely related in terms of time and proximity, this technique can run afoul of the Fifth Amendment. See Missouri v. Siebert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004). The distinction is fact sensitive, but in this case, the court found that the officer’s reference to Kelly’s pre-warning incriminating statement rendered any subsequent Miranda warning ineffective. Kelly, 997 N.E.2d at 22-23. Even if the mistake by the police was in good faith, the court said, Kelly may not have reasonably believed that she had the right to stop the conversation. Id. at 21. Although different panels of our appellate courts have applied the Siebert precedent in the past, Kelly represents the first time that Indiana’s Supreme Court has done so. Id. at 22.

In addition to the Siebert issue, the Supreme Court also found that Kelly’s initial detention was illegal due to the fact that there was not probable cause to justify her arrest. Id. at 14. Recounting the unique genesis of the investigation and the fact that law enforcement had not been able to verify any of the incriminating information provided with regard to Kelly at all, the court found that the officer did not have a lawful reason to arrest her, and therefore the search of her vehicle was unconstitutional. Id. at 12-14. The court took great pains to draw out the distinction between a Terry stop requiring mere reasonable suspicion and an arrest requiring probable cause. Id. at 9-11. While recognizing that the line between these two types of encounters is fuzzy, the court found that the nature of Kelly’s detention rose to the level of an arrest and that law enforcement could not legally justify the same. Id. at 14. To be clear, this is an issue that comes up in trial courts on a daily basis. What is unique in Kelly’s case is that the court conducted a thorough review of this area of the law and reversed the prior denial of her motion to suppress in addition to reversing on the Siebert issue.

The role of technology

A good part of the interaction between Kelly and the arresting officer was recorded by a camera that the officer was wearing next to his shoulder microphone. Id. at 3. The recording contained both audio and video. Id. at 3-4. In finding that the nature of the interrogation was closer to an unconstitutional one, like Siebert, and less like a permissible one, like Elstad, the court parsed individual phrases and examined the timing and tones used by the parties. Id. at 20-21. Likewise, in finding that Kelly’s detention was an unconstitutional arrest, the court relied upon specific details regarding the initial encounter as well as the tone and scope of the interrogation. Id. at 14-15.

All of these factors were readily available for scrutiny by the court because of the officer’s body camera and the fact that the video was made part of the record for appeal. As all criminal practitioners know, appellate courts defer to the trial court’s ruling in areas where evidence conflicts. Id. at 7-8. This is a difficult hurdle for criminal appellants to overcome in fact-sensitive cases. In this case, a contemporaneous recording kept everyone honest. With the relatively recent enactment of Indiana Rule of Evidence 617 requiring the recording of all felony custodial interrogations if the subject is in a place of detention, the factual record will be clearly available both at the trial and appellate levels. Under any scenario, when an appellate court has the actual encounter itself preserved, it makes an accurate application of legal precedent much easier upon review. In an era where cameras are becoming more and more ubiquitous, it seems that the potential for accurate legal review may increase, as well.•

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James J. Bell and K. Michael Gaerte are attorneys with Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP. They assist lawyers and judges with professional liability and legal ethics issues. They also practice in criminal defense and are regular speakers on criminal defense and ethics topics. They can be reached at jbell@bgdlegal.com or mgaerte@bgdlegal.com. The opinions expressed are those of the authors.
 

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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