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Miranda Refresher

The California Supreme Court recently had cause to examine a defendant’s argument that he had invoked his right to remain silent in one interview and that an implied waiver should not be valid. The Court restated what by now should be clear, an invocation of the right to remain silent must be clear and unambiguous and that implied waivers are perfectly acceptable. People v. Parker 2 Cal.5th 1184.

The Crimes

In 1978 and 1979, defendant Parker was a staff sergeant in the United States Marine Corps stationed in Orange County, California. During this time, six women in three different Orange County cities – Anaheim, Costa Mesa, and Tustin – were sexually assaulted and brutally beaten in their apartments. The cases went cold until a 1996 DNA hit led detectives to Parker. Parker was in CDCR at the time when detectives went to interview him.

The First Interview

At the Avenal state prison, Parker and two investigators were placed in an interview room. The defendant was given his Miranda warnings and defendant confirmed he understood each right. He was not formally asked to waive those rights, and he did not volunteer to do so. The following exchange then occurred:

Detective: Do you want to talk to us about … anything that might have occurred back, ’79, ’80?
[Defendant]: ’79, ’80, why, why would I want to talk to you about something that occurred back then?

Detective: Well, some things have come up and … we need to talk to you about them, you can stop talking at any time.
[Defendant]: I can’t … imagine why I would want to talk with the Costa Mesa Police Department.

Detective: Are you familiar with DNA?
[Defendant]: Yes, a little bit.

Detective: When you got out of prison the last time, did you have to give them a blood sample?
[Defendant]: Right.

Detective: We are going to be just right up front with you …, your DNA came up on a couple of Costa Mesa homicides back in 1979, and….
[Defendant]: I never lived in Costa Mesa.

Detective: Ok. Have you ever been to Costa Mesa?
[Defendant]: Well, I’ve gone through there, yes.”

When the detective reiterated that defendant’s DNA matched that found on four victims, Parker responded, “I don’t know what to tell you.” The other detective clarified that the DNA was obtained from semen and the victims had been hit on the head and raped. He asked if defendant had ever experienced violent tendencies on PCP or if it was possible he had “met a girl, saw a girl, followed a girl home, and then, whatever happened happened?” Defendant did not think he “could forget something like that.” Detectives encouraged Parker to confess and “[g]et the monkey off your back,” but defendant said “the day is not today” and “I think I should wait until later on …. I just need some time to … to draw upon some strength…. To say what I have to say.” He told the detectives to come back after he was transferred to Orange County jail in 23 days to which they agreed but said another investigator from a neighboring city had come with them and wanted to talk to him.

The Second Interview
The detective from a neighboring jurisdiction readvised defendant of his Miranda rights and defendant agreed to talk to him “about why I’m here today.” At 12:09 p.m., Tarpley began to interrogate defendant. He explained he was investigating a 1979 Tustin homicide and asked where defendant had been living at that time. Defendant said he was staying at the Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro and recounted much of the background and personal history he had given to the other two detectives.
Tarpley showed defendant a picture of one of the victims. Defendant said he had never seen her before and did not know why his semen would be in her, saying, “I find it hard to believe that it matched four and here’s a fifth. I have no idea…. None whatsoever.” The detective described another homicide. Defendant recalled reading there had been an argument and the husband, who was a Marine, hit the victim in the head. He asked if the husband was on death row. The detective said the husband had been convicted but that he did not know if he was on death row. Defendant admitted it was “possible” he had killed someone while under the influence of drugs because sometimes he “blacke[d] out” and would do and say things he did not remember. The detective stated, “Today’s the day that you take control and you say … I’m going to do the right thing, and that’s what we’re here for…. And that’s what I’m asking you to do…. Can you do that for me?” In response, defendant asked, “Is Costa Mesa still here?” Tarpley said the other two detectives were still there. Defendant asked to use the bathroom, stating, “then we can … get this over with.”
The defendant then confessed to all of the murders pursuant to questioning by all three detectives.

As to interview number one, the defense argued that Parker invoked his right to remain silent. The Court reiterated that it is well settled that he suspect’s words are an invocation only if they clearly and unambiguously demonstrate an intent to invoke. The Court found Parker’s statement was reasonably understood to as seeking to clarify why the officers wished to speak to him.

As to interview two, the court, stated that “a waiver of Miranda rights may be implied through `the defendant’s silence, coupled with an understanding of his rights and a course of conduct indicating waiver’. See Berghuis v. Thompkins (2010) 560 U.S. 370, 384 [176 L.Ed.2d 1098, 130 S.Ct. 2250] An express waiver is not required to take a valid statement.

Parker was convicted and sentenced to death.

 

 

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