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Miranda violations depend on whether the cop’s words and actions might reasonably elicit an incriminating statement

May 27, 2010 Miranda violations depend on whether the cop’s words and actions might reasonably elicit an incriminating statement

Bill of Rights (From public domain.)

Yesterday, Maryland’s intermediate appellate court confirmed that, absent a Miranda  waiver, a suspect’s statement must be suppressed where “any reasonable police officer could have reasonably anticipated that [the suspect] would respond to the substance of [a police officer’s accusation], and that the response could be incriminating.”  Adams v. Maryland, ___ Md. App. ___ (May 26, 2010). http://mdcourts.gov/opinions/cosa/2010/1204s07.pdf . Adams explained: 

Consequently, regardless of whether the detective acted in good faith in initiating this meeting outside the presence of Adams’s counsel, this encounter was the functional equivalent of interrogation. Blake v. State, 381 Md. 218, 236 (2004) (“Actions taken by the police that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from a suspect amount to the functional equivalent of interrogation.”). In the absence of any basis for finding a knowing and intelligent waiver of Adams’s right to be represented by counsel during such pretrial encounters, the statement should have been suppressed.

Id.

Adams proceeded to reverse Adams’s first degree murder conviction after finding that this Miranda violation was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is doubtless that police often try to elicit waivers of assertions of Miranda rights through such schemes as pretending to have a heated disagreement —- in earshot of the suspect — over the suspect’s refusal to talk. The foregoing language from Adams should treat such tactics as the equivalent of an interrogation.

In Adams, the prosecution admitted that it had sent a police officer to the jail to deliver Adams a notice of the prosecutor’s intention to seek a non-parolable life sentence. However, the delivering police officer went beyond mere hand delivery to encouraging Adams to ask any questions about the document. As a result, Adams, who already was represented by counsel, asked the officer why the prosecution was seeking such a sentence, and the officer responded with an accusation that Adams had stabbed the decedent thirty-two times, to which Adams made an incriminating statement that he had only stabbed seven times, which contradicted his confession upon arrest that he had blacked out and did not remember the incident.

Adams said that while the prosecutor had a valid concern about getting the non-parolable sentencing intention notice to Adams on time, the court talked of the option of the prosecutor doing so in broad daylight in court in front of the defense attorney.

Adams also instructed that as to any retrial, the original trial judge erred by refusing Adams’s request to instruct the jury about his voluntary manslaughter defense of hot blooded response to legally adequate provocation, because he had generated the issue, no matter how overwhelming the evidence may have been against him and no matter how thin was the hot blooded response defense.

Jon Katz – Criminal defense and DWI defense lawyer practicing in Fairfax County, Virginia, Montgomery County, Maryland and beyond. 301-495-7755. http://katzjustice.com.

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