First, what is the Edwards rule?
Say you arrest a person, Mirandize him, and he says he wants a lawyer. You put him in jail and every two hours you keep going back to him and Mirandizing him again to see if he changed his mind. You bring in different police departments to do this as well or tell him the purpose of the talk is for a different crime this time. Finally, after the 20th time of doing this, he agrees to confess. You show the court the Miranda form and his confession from the 20th time and we’re all good to go, right? Well, the Edwards rule prevents this.
In Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981), the U.S. Supreme Court held that when an accused has invoked his right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation, a valid waiver of that right cannot be established by showing only that he responded to further police initiated custodial interrogation even if he has been advised of his rights.
Additionally, an accused, having expressed his desire to deal with the police only through counsel, is not subject to further interrogation by the authorities until counsel has been made available to him, unless the accused himself initiates further communication, exchanges, or conversations with the police.
Without complicating this too much, there is another U.S. Supreme Court case, Shatzer, that says in some circumstances Edwards protection does not mean indefinite (a subject who goes to prison at twenty one years old for life cannot invoke counsel and expect that police can never be able to talk to him again). However, we can save Shatzer for another day and just focus on Edwards in this case.
To keep this very simple, two officers went to speak with Kelvin Taylor about murder A. They Mirandized him and he said before he would speak to them, he wanted to speak to the sheriff first. So, the sheriff comes and talks to him and then he agrees to talk. He makes indirect inculpatory statements about murder B and murder C. That statement is used to indict him for murder B and murder C.
His first trial is hung. There is a second trial and after the state rested, Turner for the first time provides new information for the court. Specifically, he provides evidence that he had been Mirandized by a different law enforcement agency and had invoked counsel eight months before these two officers came and spoke to him about murder A. Thus, he argues Edwards should apply. For legal reasons of timeliness, the MSC rejected Turner’s appeal. However, it is important for teaching purposes to know what they said about the Edwards rule.
The Mississippi Court of Appeals’ conclusion that Taylor’s request to speak to the sheriff after the officers went to speak to Taylor about murder A amounted to an initiation of communication sufficient to satisfy Edwards is incorrect.
In Duplantis v. State, 644 So. 2d 1235 (Miss. 1994), we specifically addressed the effect of requesting to speak to a different law enforcement official after rebuffing a request to speak to one law enforcement official. In that case, we rejected the argument that Duplantis initiated the dialogue which resulted in the formal statement given in which Duplantis declined to answer Officer Knight’s questions and asked to talk to Officer Vick instead. In other words, police initiated this encounter, not the defendant.
Likewise, in this case, police initiated further communication with Taylor after he had invoked to another agency eight months prior. Then, Taylor asked to speak to the sheriff. Thus, Taylor did not initiate the communication with police under Edwards by asking to speak to the sheriff first.
The officers who went to speak to Taylor had no idea that he had invoked counsel to another agency eight months prior. Under Edwards, that does not matter. Short of asking someone in jail if they have been previously Mirandized during their custody, it is impossible for law enforcement officers to know.
Smaller departments and jails may have an advantage here. Hopefully, you will at least know if someone from your own department has spoken to the subject in jail before you attempt to do so. The Edwards rule has a sound purpose but there are unintended consequences to the rule. Fortunately, Shatzer has helped to keep the Edwards rule from creating even more chaos.