Edwards not violated when subject re-initiates communication with police


In 1996, the body of 78 year old Minnie Smith was discovered by her son-in-law. The police investigation revealed that Smith had been stabbed to death, apparently in the course of a burglary of her home. Law enforcement officers interviewed neighbors within a radius of several miles, before eventually focusing their attention on Blayde Grayson.

In 1995, Grayson had pled guilty to grand larceny and to the reduced charge of knowingly receiving stolen property in connection with burglaries apparently committed in the area of the Smith home. He was sentenced to two three year terms to be served concurrently. He later walked off of a work detail, and a warrant was issued for his arrest four months before this murder, for probation violation.

Soon after the murder, Sheriff George Miller of George County contacted law enforcement officials in Florida in an attempt to locate Grayson. Miller soon learned that law enforcement officials in Escambia County, Florida, were also seeking Grayson in connection with three armed robberies committed in Florida earlier in 1996.

Sheriff Miller later indicated that Grayson became a suspect because of his prior crimes and because his home prior to incarceration was a very short distance from Minnie Smith’s home.

The Escambia County sheriff’s department called Miller on May 17, 1996, to inform him that Grayson was in custody. Sheriff Miller traveled to Florida that afternoon, accompanied by Houston Door and John Miller of the Mississippi Highway Patrol and Chief Investigator Al Hillman of the George County sheriff’s office.

When Sheriff Miller arrived in Escambia County, he began interviewing Grayson, after having him sign a waiver of his Miranda rights. Although he had earlier requested to speak with law enforcement personnel from George County, Grayson apparently changed his mind after Sheriff Miller began the interview.

About a quarter of the way into the interview, Grayson said he would rather not talk until he talks to his lawyer. Sheriff Miller basically conceded that Grayson asked for a lawyer four times in the space of about four minutes before the interview ended.

Sheriff Miller transported Grayson back to George County that same night. Miller then sought and received an order to obtain blood and tissue samples from Grayson.

On May 21, 1996, Grayson (according to the testimony of Officer James Tanner) requested to speak with Sheriff Miller. Grayson gave a statement to Miller in which he admitted being at the scene of the crime but claimed that an individual named Jason Kilpatrick actually robbed and killed Smith.

Later that afternoon, Grayson accompanied Sheriff Miller and Officer Tanner back to Florida to retrieve a checkbook taken from Smith’s home that had been left in the trailer Grayson shared with Kilpatrick, which Grayson claimed implicated Kilpatrick.

On May 23, 1996, Grayson repeated his accusations against Kilpatrick in a written statement given during an interview with Sheriff Miller and Inspector Dorr. According to the testimony of Miller and Dorr, this interview was initiated by Grayson. At the conclusion of this interview, Grayson agreed to take a polygraph test. That test took place on May 24, 1996, in Jackson.

After the polygraph examiner indicated that Grayson failed the test and accused him of lying, Grayson admitted to killing Smith while robbing her home. Grayson later repeated that confession to Dorr and on videotape. The confession was admitted at trial, and Grayson was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by lethal injection. On appeal, he argued his statements should have been suppressed. MSC affirmed.


The U.S. Supreme Court in Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981), said that when a suspect invokes his right to counsel, all interrogation must cease until the lawyer is present, unless the suspect himself reinitiates communication with the police. This is 5th amendment protection against self incrimination.

The Mississippi Constitution also states that in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall not be compelled to give evidence against himself. Miss. Const. art. 3, § 26. We have construed this provision to be congruent with the right to counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, except for the fact that it attaches earlier: A person’s § 26 rights attach when the police move from an investigatory phase to an accusatory phase, rather than at the actual start of adversary proceedings.

However, where a suspect voluntarily initiates contact with police, he effectively waives both his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights.

Grayson’s claim fails because he clearly waived any right to an attorney he might theoretically have had at the time he confessed. The trial court judge made an express finding in the record of the following facts: that the police ceased their interrogation of Grayson when he invoked his right to counsel, that Grayson himself reinitiated communication with the authorities, and that Grayson signed a waiver of his rights prior to giving his statement. Grayson is not entitled to have his statement suppressed unless he can show that it was the product of coercion.

Grayson cites a number of factors surrounding his confinement which he says were sufficient to overcome his free will and render his confession involuntary, including: (1) the fact that he had to invoke his right to counsel four times before the police would terminate their first interrogation; (2) his being subjected to “jail watch,” which he says consists of law enforcement officials “checking on” him every fifteen minutes, even during the night, resulting in sleep deprivation; (3) confinement for seven days without receiving an initial appearance or having counsel appointed; (4) being persuaded to take a polygraph test; and (5) being told that he failed the polygraph test and that it would be better on him if he admitted to the charge.

The trial record does not support Grayson’s interpretation of the facts or their legal significance. First, the Florida interrogation by Sheriff Miller, by Grayson’s own estimate, lasted less than four minutes and elicited no information that was offered at trial.

While George County law enforcement officials did testify that Grayson was put on “jail watch,” Grayson has offered no evidence that merely being under observation (even at fifteen minute intervals) had any coercive effect, nor any evidence that he actually suffered sleep deprivation as a result of being under jail watch.

Grayson’s confinement was also proper, because he had violated conditions of his probation. He was under sentence to a restitution center program when he walked away from a work detail several months earlier. Consequently, Grayson was automatically subject to MDOC confinement without the necessity of an initial appearance or the appointment of counsel.

Grayson has not offered any evidence that police used coercive tactics to induce him to take the polygraph test, and Grayson’s assertion that he was told it would be better for him to admit the charges is not supported by any testimony in the record.

The polygraph examiner testified that he told Grayson “Blayde, you are not being truthful with me. I need you to talk about it.” Inspector Dorr testified that he only tried to get Grayson to describe the crime fully, and he expressly denied telling Grayson that it would be better for him to confess. There is no evidence before us supporting any charge of inducement. The trial court’s refusal to suppress the statement was not manifest error.