Court throws out Miranda rights that were not adequately explained to juvenile


In 2010, JS, who was thirteen years old, told police that her neighbor Toney Jennings, sixteen years old, had raped her. When police arrived, Jennings shoved them and ran and was then arrested for assaulting a police officer. Jennings was Mirandized, waived, and made a written confession regarding the rape.

Miranda was read to him in under one minute, Jennings did not state that he understood his rights, when asked by Jennings “what’s attorney” police responded “it’s a lawyer”, and police told him they could not help him avoid a high bond unless he told the truth. The trial judge admitted the statement and Jennings was convicted of statutory rape and sentenced to 15 years. MSC reversed and said the confession was not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily obtained.


A suspect may waive his Fifth Amendment privilege, provided the waiver is made voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently. The inquiry whether a waiver is coerced has two distinct dimensions.

First, the waiver must be voluntary, in that it must be a choice made freely and deliberately, without intimidation, coercion, or deception. Second, the waiver must be knowing and intelligent, thus made with a full awareness both of the nature of the right being abandoned and the consequences of the decision to abandon it.

The totality of the circumstances approach mandates inquiry into all the circumstances surrounding the interrogation, including those surrounding the interrogation of a juvenile. Evaluating the circumstances surrounding the interrogation includes an evaluation of the juvenile’s age, experience, education, background, and intelligence, and into whether he has the capacity to understand the warnings given him, the nature of his Fifth Amendment rights, and the consequences of waiving those rights.

Furthermore, when faced with an accused of limited intelligence, the trial court must inquire into the mental capacity of the accused to determine whether the accused even had the mental capacity to understand and waive his Miranda warnings.

The MSC noted the following issues with this waiver:

1) The accused was a functionally illiterate juvenile in special education;
2) The rights were read in an extremely quick and summary manner, taking approximately 53 seconds;
3) The rights were not explained, but rather, police gave only a rote recitation of the rights and waiver;
4) Police failed to ask whether Jennings understood each individual right, and indeed failed to ask whether he understood all the Miranda rights as a whole. Police did not ask Jennings if he understood anything until after he had read him all of his rights and the waiver of rights;
5) Jennings never stated that he understood his rights or the waiver thereof;
6) Jennings asked what an attorney was, clearly indicating that he had not understood a basic and essential ingredient of the rights and waiver, and police summarily and inadequately answered his question;
7) Police exaggerated Jennings’s education level on the form, despite Jennings’s repeated statements that he was “going into tenth grade.”

Additionally, in Agee v. State, 185 So. 2d 671 (Miss. 1966), we said that telling the defendant that it would be lighter on him if he’d tell the truth rendered a confession inadmissible because it offered the accused some hope of reward or hope of leniency.

In Carley, the MCOA said that mental weakness coupled with overreaching interrogation tactics may become the basis for the exclusion of a confession.