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People v. Case – Intentional Miranda Violation

The California Supreme Court recently addressed a Miranda situation in a death penalty case. The author does not want to criticize officers out there who are working their tails off for justice. In this case, however, there are some things to point out and reemphasize so that other officers do not repeat mistakes made by other officers. People v. Case (2018 wl 1532) has some examples of perhaps what not to do/testify to.

THE CASE

In an early evening in June of 1993, Case entered a bar to rob it. He had been there earlier with a former girlfriend but left around 4:00 p.m. When he dropped the former girlfriend off he told her he had something to do. He returned to the bar and a patron and the bartender were the only people still in the bar. Case was armed with a handgun. Case made the patron and the bartender go into a restroom where he shot them both in the head killing them. Case then took all of the money in the till.

Later he showed up at his former girlfriend’s house with the money and the firearm. Case had blood all over his arms and shirt. Case told the former girlfriend to get rid of his clothing and the gun. He told her he had shot two men earlier with whom he was gambling. The former girlfriend hid the gun in a closet at her home and threw the clothing in a nearby dumpster.

Unfortunately for Case, his ex-girlfriend knew a sheriff’s deputy and called her to tell him what had happened. She was instructed to get the bloody clothes and gun and contact a patrol car to report what had happened. She did. She went down to the homicide division for an interview. As it turns out, Case was at her house when the interview concluded and the officers arrested him there.

Detectives attempted to interview Case. Case was advised of his Miranda rights and was asked whether he wanted to speak about a robbery/murder. At this point Case was handcuffed to the table and there was only one thing he was there to be questioned about. In fact, the officers told him that he was the subject of a double homicide. Case said he did not want to talk about a robbery homicide. The officers ended the interview but posed one last question, asking him where he was the night before. Case put himself at the bar up until the homicide. The officer attempted to clarify Case’s invocation asking him whether the suspect, although invoking about the crime, still wanted to talk about his alibi. Case’s response was equivocal. Case moved to suppress his statement, the Court denied the motion and Case was convicted.

Appeal and Holding

The detective who interrogated Case testified at the suppression hearing that the invocation to not talk about a robbery homicide was a limited invocation and that Case was willing to talk about his alibi. Of course, if a suspect limits his interview to a certain subject matter and you as an officer scrupulously honor that limitation you should not have a problem. The Court here, was not buying it. The Court found that the detective violated Case’s rights when he continued to ask questions surrounding the homicide. The Court found the alibi and other issues sufficiently intertwined with the robbery/homicide that they could not be parsed. The suspect put himself at the crime scene shortly thereafter.

Also at the suppression hearing the detective testified that it was his habit to ignore Miranda invocations and continue to question suspects in order to then use any suppressed statement as impeachment at trial should the defendant testify. The facts of this case took place in 1993 and officers were then being taught to proceed in this manner. It should be clear to all officers now that not only will intentional violations of the Miranda warnings NOT be admissible for ANY reason at trial, but that intentional violations subject the interrogator to CIVIL LIABILITY. DO NOT DO IT. The Court went on to castigate any officers who intentionally violate Miranda and any supervisors or trainers who teach anyone to violate the Miranda warnings. Do NOT do it and do not teach it.

HOLDING

The Court held that the statement Case made should have been suppressed. There was blood in the car Case used, blood on the gun and blood on his clothing, all of which matched the victims in the case. Case also made some admissions about being in a shooting. As a result of the overwhelming evidence of Case’s guilt, the Court upheld the conviction.

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