Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Gonzalez-Lauzan: No Miranda violation post "Okay you got me"

In U.S. v. Gonzalez-Lauzan, No. 04-12536 (Jan. 30, 2006), the Court (Hull, Marcus, Hill) held that a defendant’s Miranda and Sixth Amendment rights were not violated.
After the defendant was arrested and charged with murder, and while he was incarcerated on a separate case, the police interviewed him. The officers decided not to administer Miranda warnings at the beginning of the meeting, deciding instead to describe the evidence they had against the defendant, in the hope that he would talk about his participation in the offense. They would only give Miranda warnings if it became apparent that the defendant would be willing to make a custodial statement.
Two and a half hours into the meeting, during which the police instructed the defendant to listen and said they had no questions, and during which they waited for the defendant to see if there was a response, the defendant stated suddenly: "Okay, you got me." The police then read the defendant his Miranda rights, and the defendant agreed in writing to waive these rights, and then made "multiple incriminating statements."
The district court agreed with the defendant that the statement "Okay, you got me," should be suppressed, but allowed all the post-Miranda warning statements to be admitted. On appeal, the Court affirmed.
The Court noted that the two most relevant cases were Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298 (1985) (despite initial failure to give Miranda warnings, postwarning confession is admissible where subsequent statement was voluntarily made), and Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2005) (confession inadmissible where police deliberately gave defendant Miranda warnings only after interrogating her and drawing out a confession). The Court found that the confession was admissible regardless of which case applied. Even under Seibert, the multi-factor test adopted by the 4-Justice plurality indicated that the confession was admissible, because the defendant gave no answers during the prewarning session, which suggests that the latter warnings were effective. Further, the only incriminating post-warning statement was "okay, you got me." In addition, it remained reasonable for the defendant to decline to make statements after being given warnings, because he said very little during the pre-warning session. Although other factors weighed in the defendant’s favor – namely, the pre- and post-warning questioning was continuous in time and place – they carried little weight in light of the defendant’s silence during the first phase of the interview.
Moreover, Justice Kennedy’s concurrence in Seibert focused on whether police engaged in a "strategy" which undermined Miranda. This – arguably the case’s narrowest holding – was not present here, because police did not ask the defendant a single question during the first phase.
The Court also rejected the Sixth Amendment challenge. Though the defendant had counsel on another case, this did not mean he had counsel on this case, as the Sixth Amendment right is "offense specific." Further, the defendant never invoked his right to counsel during the interview, thereby waiving his post-warning right. http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/ops/200412536.pdf