7th Circuit affirms conviction in Miranda warning dispute

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a man’s conviction, rejecting his argument that the record doesn’t show that the statements read to him from a card produced by police satisfy his Miranda warnings.

Nehemiah Felders was convicted of possessing a firearm, despite a felony conviction making the action unlawful, and was sentenced to 96 months of imprisonment. Felders’ sole argument on appeal was that his statements should have been suppressed because the police did not give him the warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).

At a hearing, Felders had testified that the police had not given him warnings of any kind. But an officer testified to the contrary, asserting that he had taken from his credential case a card with warnings and read Felders the advice on that card. Believing the officer and not Felders, the district judge denied the motion to suppress the statements that Felders made to the officer and others.

Before the 7th Circuit in the case of USA v. Nehemiah Felders, 19-2867, Felders argued that the record doesn’t show that the statements read from the card satisfy Miranda.

“Yet the record is silent about what was on the card from which (Officer Jonathan) Price read. Felders has the burden of persuasion, and on a silent record he cannot show that any error occurred — not when the warnings were read, not in the district court. The judge was available to hear the parties’ evidence. That Felders did not ask Price for details does not show that the judge made a mistake. Someone who invokes plain-error review on a silent record has little chance of success. The district judge could have avoided the argument now presented on appeal by asking Price to read the card aloud, but the absence of this information cuts against Felders given the plain-error burden,” the 7th Circuit wrote in a per curiam opinion.

“To get anywhere, Felders needed to show what was on the card. Asking Price to read it, or produce a copy, would have been one way to do that. Asking the police to produce a copy would have been another. At trial Price testified the state police issued the card he used, so it was an official document. Felders does not contend that the state distributed some cards that satisfy Miranda and some that do not. Nor does he contend that someone else, such as The Onion, has produced wallet cards purporting to be from the state police but containing doctored warnings,” it continued.

“Evidence that the card in Price’s possession could have been defective or satirical might have persuaded us to remand for a hearing. But we are not aware of any reason to believe that Indiana, or any other state, distributes warning cards that fail to satisfy the Supreme Court’s requirements.”

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