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Waiving Miranda Rights: Invoking One’s Right To Remain Silent, Then Re-Initiating Communication With Police Constitutes Waiver


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U.S v. Gonzales

2014 WL 4099255

United States Court of Appeals

For the Second Circuit 

Decided on: August 21, 2014

Rule 403 Allows A Court To Exclude Relevant Evidence When It Is Of Little Probative Value

Blog by: Stephen N. Preziosi, Esq., Criminal Appeals Attorney 

Issue: 1) Whether a Defendant who invoked the right to remain silent under Miranda and the Fifth Amendment waive that right when he subsequently reinitiated communication;

2) Whether the trial court erred under Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence Law when it excluded a murder victim’s son’s testimony because of its probative value

Summary: Defendant was convicted on four counts of intentional murder and challenged his conviction on several grounds. Defendant argues 1) his confession was obtained in violation of his Fifth Amendment right and ; 2) District Judge should not have excluded a potentially exculpatory statement by the child of one of the murder victims;

See Also: Adverse inference Charge Required Where Defendant Made Timely Request For Material Evidence Lost Or Destroyed By Prosecution

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that Defendant’s Miranda rights were not violated because Defendant reinitiated the contact. A waiver can occur subsequent to an initial invocation of Miranda rights if the suspect reinitiates communication.

The Court of Appeals held that the District Court did not abuse its discretion when it excluded the child’s testimony because under Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence Law, a court can exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by certain factors such as trustworthiness and reliability.

Holding: 1) The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that when a Defendant invokes the right to remain silent under Miranda and the Fifth Amendment, interrogation must stop and the invocation must be scrupulously honored. However, a waiver can occur subsequent to an initial invocation of Miranda rights if the suspect reinitiates communication. The Government must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that a Defendant’s waiver of his Miranda rights was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent.

2) The Court of Appeals held under Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence a court can exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by at least one of the certain factors such as reliability, trustworthiness, and prejudicial police reports.

Facts: Defendant was convicted of four murders: Carmelo, his wife, Bedword and Polanco while engaging in a trafficking crime.

Before trial, Defendant moved to suppress the written confessions claiming that the interrogation had been coercive and that he had invoked his right to counsel and to remain silent. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York held that the Defendant’s rights had not been violated because he had reinitiated contact after the first Miranda form and the confession had been obtained before expiration of a six-hour safe harbor period for questioning between arrest and presentment. The jury convicted him on all four counts.

On Appeal, Defendant claims that his confessions were obtained in violation of his Miranda rights, because he indicated on the first Miranda waiver form that he was not willing to answer questions.

Defendant next argued that the District Court abused its discretion when it excluded the testimony of one Carmelo’s son’s testimony, however, the observations of the young boy would have been pitted against an overwhelming constellation of forensic evidence and a signed confession that unequivocally implicated Defendant.

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the United States District Court for the Southern District.

Legal Analysis: The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit discusses the arguments by counsel in this case: 1) that Defendant’s confession was erroneously admitted because it was obtained in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights; 2) that the District Court’s exclusion of the testimony of Carmelo’s son was error.

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reviews a District Court’s decision on a suppression motion de novo on questions of law and for clear error in factual determinations, United States v. Stewart, 551 F.3d 187, 190-191 2d Cir.2009. Under clear error review, the Court of Appeals will uphold findings of fact that are plausible in light of the records viewed in its entirety, United States v. Reilly, 76 F.3d 1271, 1276 2d Cir. 1996.

In this case, Defendant had many arguments.

1)        Defendant’s first claim was that his confessions were obtained in violation of his Miranda rights, because he indicated on the first Miranda waiver from that he was not willing to answer questions. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that once Miranda rights have been invoked, interrogation must stop and the invocation must be scrupulously honored, Michigan v. Mosley, 423 U.S. 96, 104, 96 S.Ct. 321, 46 L.Ed.2d 313 1975.

However, a waiver can occur subsequent to an initial invocation of Miranda rights if the suspect reinitiates communication. Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 485, 101 S.Ct. 188-, 68 L.Ed.2d 378 1981; Wood v. Ercole, 644 F.3d 83, 90 2d Cir.2011.

The Government must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that a Defendant’s waiver of Miranda warnings was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent. Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 168, 107 S.Ct. 515, 93 L.Ed2d 473 1986. Whether a waiver occurred is determined by viewing the totality of the circumstances, but for an invocation of Miranda rights to trigger exclusion, the invocation must be unambiguous. Berghuis v. Thompkins, 560 U.S. 370, 381, 130 S.Ct. 2250, 176 L.Ed.2d 1098 2010.

The Defendant claimed that the second Miranda form was invalid. In order to determine whether or not the form was invalid the Court of Appeals turns on how contact was reinitiated. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that it was Defendant’s subsequent decision to reinitiate the conversation by asking the agents not to leave, indicating that he wanted to speak with them. Defendant, not the agents, reinitiated the contact before questioning began. Prior to his re-initiation of the contact, the agents merely told him that he had already been indicted and would this be taken to New York.

The Court of Appeals held that that was not an interrogatory statement that was reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response. The confession did not immediately follow, but instead came only after an extended explanation of his rights and options. The Deputy stopped the interview once Defendant wrote no on the first form, and began again only at Defendant’s insistence and after going once more over Defendant’s options and giving him the second waiver form. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit concluded that because he reinitiated contact, he waived his right to remain silent under Miranda and the Fifth Amendment

2)        Defendant’s second argument was that one of the murder victim’s son’s statements should have been admissible as either present-sense impressions or as excited utterances under Rule 803(2). However, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held, while those rules solve any hearsay problem, neither solve the problem of the need to show the declarant’s first hand knowledge of the subject matter. Under Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, a court can exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by certain factors. Both exceptions are derived from the belief that the contemporaneous statements about observed events leave less time to forget or fabricate and, therefore, tend to be reliable United States v. Medico, 557, F.2d 309, 315 2d.Cir.1997. The Court of Appeals held that there was no evidence that the child actually observed the killings at all and had been sleeping in a different room when the shooting began. The Court concluded with Rule 403 and held that the evidence was not relevant and were thus of little probative value. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit for the following reasons that were stated, affirmed.


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