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When a subject invokes counsel, who talks next is not the test for re-initiation of interview


Jairus Collins was arrested for the murder of Ebony Jenkins. He was Mirandized, waived, and started to make a statement before asking for a lawyer. The officer then left and shut the door. A few minutes later, Collins knocked on the door to ask how much longer this would take because he needed to call to see if he had to go to work.

The officer then re-entered the room and the conversation continued. Collins continued asking for a lawyer but the interview did not stop. Also, the officer had said a second Miranda form would be filled out but it was not. Finally, the officer used improper pressure to continue the interview.

The trial Judge found that Collins had re initiated the conversation after invoking counsel by knocking on the door and asking how much longer this would take. Thus, he ruled the confession admissible. Collins was convicted of murder and sentenced to life. On appeal, he argued the confession was illegally taken after he had invoked counsel. MSC agreed with Collins and reversed.


A.  After invoking counsel, what constitutes re-initiation

If the individual in custody states that he wants an attorney, the interrogation must cease until an attorney is present.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981), said 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.

Edwards went onto say that once the right to counsel is invoked, the police may not subject the accused to further interrogation until counsel is made available, unless the accused himself initiates further communication, exchanges, or conversations with the police. In determining whether the accused initiated conversation after an invocation of rights, the court noted that inquiries relating to routine incidents of the custodial relationship will not generally initiate a conversation in the sense in which that word was used in Edwards.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Oregon v. Bradshaw, 462 U.S. 1039 (1983), said that some inquiries, such as a request for a drink of water or a request to use a telephone are so routine that they cannot be fairly said to represent a desire on the part of an accused to open up a more generalized discussion relating directly or indirectly to the investigation. Thus, the Supreme Court’s use of the term initiate involves more than the inquiry of simply who talks first.

Clearly, Collins talked first. He starts by telling the officer he can get his lawyer (there are then inaudible parts of the tape before he also says he doesn’t need a lawyer so it is not possible to understand the context of this part of the statement) and he then asks how long this will take because he needs to call his employer about his job.

Asking how long things would take because he needed to call his employer if he would miss work is a matter relating to routine incidents of the custodial relationship. He did not evince a willingness and a desire for a generalized discussion about the investigation.

B.  Confession obtained by promises, threats, and inducements

With Collins obviously being concerned about his job, the officer began to reiterate that the police could not do anything to help Collins because he said he wanted his lawyer. Clearly, the officer could have informed Collins of an approximate time or allowed him a phone call to contact his employer, yet he instead represented to Collins that nothing could be done for him because he asked for a lawyer, appearing to use Collins’s invocation of his right to counsel against him, to pressure him into a statement.

Moreover, the officer ignored several requests from Collins for a lawyer and used promises and inducements to convince Collins to give a statement. He asked whether Collins would talk to him if he refrained from asking him about guns; then, in short order, he asked Collins if Collins owned a gun.

The officer also made several statements that he would simply listen to whatever Collins chose to tell him, in response to Collins expressing displeasure regarding his questions. He also affirmatively stated that he needed Collins to sign another Miranda waiver in order for them to talk; yet, the officer never had him sign a second Miranda waiver, something that was likely confusing to Collins.

Given the pressure exerted on Collins to give a statement after he had exercised his right to counsel, the broken promises and inducements (primarily regarding the officers representations to Collins that he would merely listen to whatever Collins chose to tell him rather than re-interrogate him), the fact that Collins was not administered a second Miranda warning despite specific representations by the officer to Collins that he could not validly speak with him without doing so, even if he did initiate contact with police, the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Collins’s statement was knowing and intelligent.