Monday, December 27, 2010

Court strikes down two-step interrogation

Miranda v. Arizona has been watered down repeatedly by the Supreme Court over the years, but it's still got spunk. The courts are still able to smoke out some the fast ones that law enforcement will pull in trying to get a suspect to make an admissible confession.

The case is United States v. Capers, decided on December 1. Capers worked for the post office, which suspected he was stealing money orders from packages. A sting operation nailed him, and he was brought in for questioning. The investigator began questioning Capers without reading his Miranda rights, including the right to remain silent. Capers admitted the theft. Then Capers was transported to another facility for more questioning. When the investigator, Hoti, began questioning Capers again, he was read his Miranda rights. Foti did not ask the same questions that elicited the prior confession; he instead asked related questions about the theft and again got Capers to make incriminating statements.

This two-step interrogation violated Miranda, as interpreted by the Supreme Court over the years. Now, there are good-faith two-step interrogations and bad-faith ones. The Second Circuit (Pooler, Hall and Trager [D.J.], dissenting) deems this a bad-faith one, citing Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004). The question is whether the two-step was deliberate. For the first time, the Second Circuit holds that the prosecution bears the burden of showing it was not deliberate. Here, it was, because his

“mindset was on, one ... recovering evidence, ... [a]s well as determining if the two of them or if — either both of them or only one of them had any role to play in committing the crime.” Hoti testified that he was concerned about losing the money orders in the “very, very large” facility because the money orders were about the size of a U.S. dollar and the defendants could “toss them, hide them ... [and] [y]ou’d have a real, real tough time finding [them] in this large facility like that with all the packages and other types of mail.” When asked whether he was in a position to read Capers his Miranda warnings before asking him about the money orders, Hoti replied “absolutely.”

This proves bad faith. Judge Hall writes, "There is no exception to Miranda that allows a delay in giving Miranda warnings in order to preserve evanescent evidence. Neither is there an exception to Miranda that permits delaying the warnings in order to ascertain whether a suspected co-conspirator may be entitled to release." Rather, "The only legitimate reason to delay intentionally a Miranda warning until after a custodial interrogation has begun is to protect the safety of the arresting officers or the public -- neither of which was an issue here." Moreover, the court finds that the failure to initially Mirandize Capers was no accident; Hoti was an experienced investigator who underwent Miranda training, and the questioning was not out of the blue but the end result of a lengthy investigation.

No comments: