Local Voice: Silence is golden

By Jermaine Wyrick

The Constitution affords the right against self-incrimination.

The Fifth Amendment provides that, “no person...shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”

Consequently, in the groundbreaking case of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966) the United States Supreme Court held police must inform individuals who are in custody of their right to an attorney before interrogation. The Supreme Court has called the Miranda rules, “prophylactic,” meaning they are designed to protect the Constitution.

Cases are based upon the Fifth Amendment. Factually in Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477(1981), a man was arrested, read his Miranda rights, and stated he wanted an attorney. The next day, officers went to the jail to re-read the Miranda rights, began questioning/interrogation again, and he confessed.

The United States Supreme Court established in Edwards v. Arizona, that once an individual asserts the right to an attorney, all questioning by law enforcement must cease until counsel is present or the suspect voluntarily initiates further conversation. Thus the police have to stop interviewing the individual and cannot re-initiate questioning once that individual invokes his right to an attorney.

Hence, the police cannot try to cajole, intimidate, manipulate, or persuade an individual to change his mind. The goal of Edwards was to prevent police from badgering a suspect into waiving his 5th Amendment/Miranda rights in order to make coerced statements. Moreover, Edwards prevents the police from “wearing down” an in custody suspect through repeated interrogation efforts.

In Arizona v. Roberson, 486 U.S. 675(1988), the Supreme Court held the invocation of the right to counsel by a suspect that is in custody prevents any officer from approaching the defendant about any crime unless the suspect has a lawyer present. Factually, Roberson involved a man who was arrested at the scene of a burglary, given his Miranda rights, and invoked his right to counsel. Three days later, while in custody, without an attorney, a different officer interviewed him about a different crime.    

Factually in Minnick v. Mississippi, 498 U.S. 146 (1990), Minnick made incriminating statements to a deputy three days after he consulted with a lawyer that he had previously requested.
The Supreme Court held that “when counsel is requested, interrogation must cease, and officials may not re-initiate interrogation without counsel present, whether or not the accused has consulted with his attorney.”

In a recent case, Maryland v. Shatzer, (2010), the crux of the controversy was how long does the 5th Amendment/Miranda invocation of the right to counsel last.

Factually, in August 2003, the police interviewed Michael Shatzer Sr., regarding allegations that he sexually abused his 3-year-old son. Shatzer invoked his right to counsel, the interrogation was ended, and the investigation subsequently closed.

In March 2006, a new investigation commenced over the same sexual abuse allegations. Shatzer, who was incarcerated on a different charge, waived his Miranda rights, and made incriminating statements. The court held that a 14-day break in custodial interrogation ends the Edwards presumption that a Miranda waiver at a subsequent interrogation is the result of coercion. The court reasoned that a suspect who has been released for at least two weeks following the custodial interrogation, in which he initially asserted a right to counsel, will have sufficient time to re-acclimate to his normal life, consult with counsel, family, and/or friends, and rebound from any lingering coercive effects of the prior custody. Furthermore, the court reasoned Shatzer’s return to his normal pre-interrogation life in the general prison population for a period of 2-1/2 years before re-interrogation constituted a sufficient “break in custody” to end the Edwards presumption and enable him to voluntarily waive his Miranda rights. Specifically, the court stated the release of a suspect who has been previously incarcerated back into the general prison population is a release to the suspects’ “accustomed surroundings and daily routine,” in which the suspect regains the same control over his life as he possessed prior to the interrogation.    

Jermaine A. Wyrick is an attorney with the Law Offices of Jermaine Wyrick PLLC. He can be reached at (313) 964-8950 or by e-mail at attyjaw1@Ameritech.net. Mr. Wyrick is available for speaking engagements on legal topics.