Re-interrogation Creates Miranda Violation and Leads to Reversal of Murder Conviction

by | July 25, 2018

Hendrix v. Palmer, 893 F.3d 906 (6th Cir. 2018)

Gina Doen parked her car in front of a dry cleaner, intending to quickly pick up her dry-cleaned clothes. She left the keys in the car and her 65-year-old mother waited for her in the front passenger seat.

Joseph Hendrix got into the driver seat. As the elderly Mrs. Doen told Hendrix that he was in the wrong car, he told her to get out. And, as she was trying to undo the seatbelt, Hendrix pushed her out. Five minutes after she went into the dry cleaner, Gina Doen returned to find her car gone and her mother lying on the pavement, bleeding from her head.

An officer subsequently saw the stolen car while patrolling an area known for drug deals. The officer saw Hendrix (who the officer knew from a previous arrest) sitting in the stolen car and arrested him. Once in the police car, Hendrix acknowledged and waived his Miranda rights. Hendrix told officers that he did not know how he acquired the car and did not know what to say about it. Later that morning, a detective tried to interrogate Hendrix, but Hendrix said he would not speak until he consulted with an attorney.

Two days later, the same detective and a partner once again tried to interrogate Hendrix. Though Hendrix refused to sign a rights waiver, he agreed to talk to the detectives. The detectives told Hendrix that the woman thrown from the car was in critical condition and might die. Hendrix made some cryptic statements about asking the Detroit police about where he was at the time of the carjacking and also asked if he was going to be charged with murder.

When a suspect invokes the right to remain silent (in contrast to the right to counsel), officers may attempt to interrogate the suspect later. In Michigan v. Mosley (423 U.S. 96 (1975)), the Supreme Court allowed a second interrogation after the suspect had invoked the right to remain silent. The Court relied on the following factors:

• The interrogation immediately ceased when the defendant said he did not want to talk anymore.
• There was a significant passage of time between the invocation of the right to remain silent and the second interrogation.
• A fresh set of Miranda warnings preceded the resumption.
• The renewed interrogation related to a different crime.

The law governing a renewed attempt at interrogation after a suspect invokes the right to counsel differs from the rules governing a second interrogation after invocation of the right to remain silent. Once the suspect has clearly invoked the right to counsel, all interrogation must immediately stop (Patterson v. Illinois, 487 U.S. 285 (1988)) and the officers cannot question the suspect until the suspect’s attorney is present (Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981)). Though a suspect’s clear invocation of the right to counsel absolutely cuts off interrogation, the suspect may open the door to interrogation by initiating communication with officers (Minnick v. Mississippi, 498 U.S. 146 (1990); Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981)). The court will consider two critical factors:

• Did the suspect initiate the conversation and indicate a desire to talk about the crime?
• Was the suspect again given a warning and then voluntarily waived his/her Miranda rights, including the right to counsel?

The prosecutor cited Hendrix’s statements in the closing argument, including his nonsensical statement about asking the Detroit police where he was at the time of the crime. There was extensive evidence connecting him with the carjacking. Moreover, the prosecution showed that Hendrix had a four-year history of similar carjacking crimes in the same area (he lived nearby), including crimes where he stole a car and drove to the same Detroit neighborhood drug market.

Notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence, the appellate court held that admission of Hendrix’s statements after he asked to speak to an attorney violated his right to counsel. The court held the second interrogation never should have occurred—even though the statements included a lot of nonsense, they likely hurt Hendrix’s credibility. The court remanded the case for a new trial.

KEN WALLENTINE is the Chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and former Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He has served over three decades in public safety, is a legal expert and editor of Xiphos, a monthly national criminal procedure newsletter. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and serves as a use of force consultant in state and federal criminal and civil litigation across the nation.

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