There was an Edwards error but it was harmless in this case


On April 29, 2021, two-year-old Nolan Norris was struck and killed by a pickup truck on Highway 492 in front of his home near Union, Mississippi. The truck’s driver, Andrew Winstead, was later indicted under Mississippi Code Annotated section 63-3-401 (Rev. 2022) for leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death. Nolan’s mother, Madison Norris, testified that prior to the accident, her three children, her mother, her sister-in-law Cassie Clearman, and Cassie’s child were all at Madison’s house. As the children were playing, Madison realized that Nolan was not inside the house. She ran to her front door and saw Nolan standing on the other side of Highway 492. Madison started running toward Nolan, and Nolan turned and saw her. Nolan then stepped into the road and was immediately struck by a pickup truck traveling west toward Union. Madison testified that Nolan was struck at 8:28 p.m. The truck continued down the road. Madison immediately picked up Nolan out of the road and carried him to her yard, but she could tell that he was dead.

After Madison carried Nolan into her yard, the truck—a dark colored truck pulling a golf cart on a trailer—returned to the scene and stopped right in front of Madison’s driveway. Madison testified, “The driver got out of the truck and came over there, and he said, ‘Oh, my God. Damn.’ And he got back in his truck and kept going,” traveling east toward House, Mississippi. At trial, Madison identified Winstead as the driver. Madison testified that her neighbor, Ralin Williams, was nearby when Winstead approached her, but Cassie had walked back toward the house to keep the other kids away from the scene.

Williams came out of his house after hearing screams. Williams testified that a man driving a Chevrolet truck with a trailer and golf cart had stopped at the scene. The man was standing near Madison— face to face—and Williams heard them talking. But Williams did not recognize the man, nor could he hear what the man or Madison said to one another. At trial, Williams stated that he would not be able to identify the man if he saw him. The man returned to his truck and drove away before law enforcement arrived.

Officer Steve Robinson of the Union Police Department responded first, followed by Lieutenant Brad Edmondson of the Mississippi Bureau of Invetigation (MBI), who matched debris to Winstead’s truck. Investigator Mark Flake of the Neshoba County Sheriff’s Office stopped Winstead based on a “be on the lookout” (BOLO). When stopped, Winstead claimed he thought he hit a dog.

Winstead was taken to the Neshoba County Sheriff’s Department, where Edmondson and Trooper Thomas Carpenter of the Mississippi Highway Patrol interviewed him. Edmondson recorded the interview, which began at approximately 12:43 a.m. on Friday, April 30, 2021. Edmondson advised Winstead of his Miranda rights, and Winstead signed a Miranda waiver. Winstead stated that on April 29, he had played golf during the day before grilling, eating dinner, and drinking a couple of beers at a friend’s house. Winstead said that while driving home after dinner on Highway 492, he thought he hit a dog. Winstead stated that he turned his truck around, drove back, and saw people walking back into their yard. Winstead said he continued driving and did not stop because he still believed he had hit a dog, and he “didn’t want to stop and stir no shit up.”

Edmondson asked Winstead for the name of the friend he had eaten dinner with, but Winstead did not want to disclose his friend’s name. Edmondson insisted he needed to talk to the friend to corroborate Winstead’s statements. Winstead then stated, “Can I talk to a lawyer about that? I don’t have one. Like I don’t know of one to talk to. But I need to talk to a lawyer first.” Edmondson stopped recording the interview in response to Winstead’s request for a lawyer.

About twelve minutes later, Edmondson resumed recording the interview. When the recording resumed, Edmondson stated that during the twelve-minute period that was not recorded, he had explained to Winstead that he could ask to continue talking to Edmondson at any time, although he had a right to an attorney and the right to remain silent. Edmondson stated—and Winstead confirmed—that Winstead then stated that he would talk to Edmondson and Carpenter now without his lawyer.

Edmondson then re-advised Winstead of his Miranda rights, Winstead signed another Miranda waiver, and Edmondson resumed questioning Winstead. During the second recorded portion of the interview, Winstead again stated that he initially thought he hit a dog, turned around and returned to the scene, stopped, and exited his truck. However, Winstead now admitted that when he returned to the scene, he realized he had hit a child—he saw a crying woman holding the child and a lot of blood. Winstead said he panicked, got back in his truck, and left. Winstead stated that he never saw the child step in front of his truck; he only saw somewhat of a little blur just before impact and thought it was a dog. Although Winstead had a cooler of beer in his truck, he denied that he fled the accident scene because he had been drinking. Winstead said he drank four beers while playing golf between noon and 3:45 p.m. He said he drank three beers while grilling and eating dinner at his friend’s house between approximately 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Edmondson, Carpenter, and Winstead testified during the suppression hearing. Edmondson said that after Winstead asked for a lawyer, he stopped asking him questions and got him something to drink. Winstead also took a restroom break. According to Edmondson, “We just kind of talked, and I told him that, I mean, it’s in his best interest to speak. But, you know, it is what it is.” Edmondson testified that the interview resumed when Winstead said, “I’ll talk to you.” Edmondson and Carpenter both denied that they threatened or coerced Winstead or promised him any reward, benefit, or leniency.

In contrast, Winstead claimed that during the unrecorded part of the interview, Edmondson leaned in close to him, cursed him, and threatened him. Winstead claimed that Edmondson told him about a similar case in which a defendant got a lawyer instead of making a statement and served time because the lawyer was just out looking for a check. According to Winstead, Edmondson reinitiated the interview. Winstead testified that he agreed to continue the interview only because he “was scared and felt threatened.”

The trial court ruled that both recorded portions of the interview were admissible. The court found that Winstead reinitiated the interview after invoking his right to counsel. The court also found that Edmondson and Carpenter did not threaten Winstead or coerce his confession. As a result, both recordings were admitted into evidence and played for the jury.

Edmondson found an outgoing call to Chuck Fox, who owned an auto body repair shop, in Winstead’s phone records, contradicting Winstead’s claim of not making calls. Fox testified Winstead mentioned front truck damage, wanting to keep it from his parents. Forensic analysis linked blood found on Winstead’s truck to Nolan.

The jury found Winstead guilty of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and he was sentenced to twelve years in MDOC. On appeal, he argues his confession should have been suppressed. MCOA overturned the trial court on Edwards but affirmed on the conviction.


In the setting of in-custody interrogation, if the accused states that he wants an attorney, the interrogation must cease until an attorney is present. In Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981), SCOTUS held that once an accused has expressed his desire to deal with the police only through counsel, he 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. In other words, once an accused has invoked his right to counsel, any statements given by the defendant in response to further police questioning are admissible only where (1) the defendant initiated further discussions with the police and (2) knowingly and intelligently waived the rights he had invoked. See MSC Haynes.

When we say that interrogation must cease, it is important to keep in mind that the term “interrogation” under Miranda refers not only to express questioning, but also to any words or actions on the part of the police (other than those normally attendant to arrest and custody) that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect. The latter portion of this definition focuses primarily upon the perceptions of the suspect, rather than the intent of the police. This focus reflects the fact that the Miranda safeguards were designed to vest a suspect in custody with an added measure of protection against coercive police practices, without regard to objective proof of the underlying intent of the police. A practice that the police should know is reasonably likely to evoke an incriminating response from a suspect thus amounts to interrogation. See SCOTUS Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291 (1980).

In the present case, no more than twelve minutes elapsed between Winstead’s invocation of his right to counsel and the resumption of the interrogation. Edmondson testified that after Winstead invoked his right to counsel, he stopped asking Winstead questions and got him something to drink. Winstead and Carpenter also testified that Winstead was allowed to use the restroom. But Edmondson also testified that he continued to talk to Winstead and tell him that it would be in his best interest to speak. For example, Edmondson testified:

Q. Did you or Trooper Carpenter make anymore inquiries of Mr. Winstead during that time?
A. As far as asking the questions, no. We just kind of talked and told him that, I mean, it’s his best interest to speak. But, you know, it is what it is.
Q. Did the interview resume at some point?
A. It did when he requested it.
Q. What did he say?
A. He said, “I’ll talk to you.”

Edmondson also testified, “Like I said, it’s in your best interest and then we would talk. And he says, ‘All right. I’ll talk to you. I’ll talk.’” Edmondson testified he reminded Winstead that he had previously requested a lawyer, but Winstead said, “Mr. Brad, I’ll speak to you.” Edmondson testified that he then “cautiously” restarted the interrogation. Edmondson described his advice regarding Winstead’s “best interests” as just “small talk.” Based on Edmondson’s testimony, there is no indication that this “small talk” ever ceased during the twelve-minute gap between the two recordings. Rather, accepting Edmondson’s testimony, it appears that Winstead relented and agreed to resume the interrogation without a lawyer in direct response to Edmondson’s continuing advice and encouragement.

Thus, even viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court’s ruling and findings of fact, the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the initial conversation between Edmondson and Winstead ever ceased or that Winstead voluntarily reinitiated their conversation. Rather, the evidence shows that Edmondson continued to subtly prod the unrepresented Winstead that it would be in his “best interest” to give a statement until Winstead abandoned his prior request for a lawyer and gave an uncounseled confession. The trial court therefore erred by denying Winstead’s motion to suppress and admitting the second recording into evidence.

Although we conclude that the trial court erred, that does not end our analysis. We conclude that the error in admitting the second recording was harmless due to the overwhelming evidence of Winstead’s guilt. The admissible evidence clearly established that Winstead’s truck struck and killed Nolan and that Winstead left the scene. Even without the second recording, the evidence overwhelmingly established Winstead’s guilt of the crime of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death. Therefore, the error in admitting the second recording was harmless and does not require reversal.