In 2013, Michael Jackson was a teacher at Columbus High School. He reached out to a student at the school using Kik and eventually offered him money for oral sex via cell phone text messaging. The student told his mother and they went to the police with the phone.
Jackson was arrested and met with Investigator Timothy Jenkins. After being Mirandized, he immediately invoked counsel and the conversation was terminated. A few hours later, Jackson asked to see Jenkins again. Jackson said “I want to tell you about the situation.”
Jenkins advised that Miranda warnings would need to be given again and then Jackson said “I would rather just wait until I consult with a lawyer.” Jenkins said Miranda would still need to be waived and then he could talk to him. After signing the second Miranda waiver form, Jackson confessed to offering money to the student for oral sex. He was convicted of exploitation of a minor and sentenced to 12 years. On appeal, he argued his confession should have been suppressed since he had invoked counsel. MCOA affirmed.
A person does not have to use specific language such as “I want a lawyer” in order to invoke the right to counsel. However, a mere suggestion or misunderstanding is not enough.
In Delashmit, MSC said that a suspect must articulate his or her desire to have counsel present with sufficient clarity that a reasonable police officer under the circumstances would understand the statement to be a request for an attorney. When a suspect invokes his right to counsel, all custodial interrogation must cease until the lawyer is present, unless the suspect himself initiates further communication, exchanges, or conversations with the police.
Jackson invoked his right to counsel in the first interview. The detectives respected that invocation and left. A few hours later, Jackson clearly reinitiated contact with the detectives. When the detectives re-entered the room, Jackson affirmed that he had asked the detectives to return.
He then told the detectives, “I want to tell you about the situation.” Then, almost immediately after making that statement, Jackson stated, “I would just rather wait until I consult with a lawyer.” This statement was different from his previous statements asking the detectives to return and to tell them about the situation.
Simply put, Jackson’s conflicting statements made within seconds of each other, coupled with the fact that he had reinitiated the entire second conversation, created a confusing and ambiguous situation. Jenkins responded by reading Jackson his Miranda warnings again. After the Miranda warnings were read, Jackson waived his rights and began speaking with the detectives.
In Downey, MSC said that when there is ambiguity in the request for counsel, this court applies a three step test to determine whether the trial judge correctly decided whether to admit or suppress a defendant’s statements to a law enforcement officer. In applying this test, we consider (1) whether counsel was ambiguously requested; (2) if the request for counsel was ambiguous, whether the appropriate questions to identify the counsel requested were asked; and (3) if the interrogation continued without counsel, whether there was a valid Miranda waiver.
After Jackson stated he would rather wait to consult a lawyer, Jenkins was permitted to seek clarification. Jenkins did not question Jackson about his criminal conduct. He only stated that he needed to re-read Jackson his Miranda warnings before listening to anything Jackson had to say about the situation. He also informed Jackson that they could talk about whether Jackson wanted a lawyer after he was read his Miranda warnings.
At that point, Jackson was read his Miranda warnings for a second time and signed a second waiver form. Jenkins then asked Jackson what he wanted to talk about, and Jackson told Jenkins what he obviously wanted to say. We find Jenkins’s attempt to clarify the situation by reading Jackson his constitutionally required Miranda rights was not a violation of Jackson’s Fifth Amendment rights. The ruling in this case is directly determined by the unique facts of this case*.
* Any time you see a sentence like this in the opinion, the court is basically telling you that if you want to use this case as precedent, you better have facts that are almost identical. In most cases where the guy isn’t coming back to you to talk after invoking counsel and then being wishy washy with what he wants, if they tell you they want a lawyer, reading them Miranda rights again will not work.
MSC has since decided Saddler wherein they said that it is still good police practice to ask clarifying questions when the subject makes ambiguous requests to remain silent and/or to obtain an attorney. However, they have said they will now follow U.S. Supreme Court case Davis v. United States, 512 U.S. 452 (1994), which holds that the right to counsel can only be legally asserted by an unambiguous or unequivocal request for counsel.