Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Smtih: Garrity waiver is valid

In U.S. v. Smith, No. 13-15476 (April 29, 2016), the Court held that the defendant – a prison guard charged with beating an inmate to death – validly waived his Garrity rights to not be coerced into surrendering his Fifth Amendment right to silence under threat of being fired or subjected to other sanctions. With regard to most of the statements Smith gave to prison officials investigating the incident, the Court concluded that the statements were not compelled. The Court emphasized that Smith did not testify at the evidentiary hearing, thus limiting proof that he subjectively believed he would be subject to sanctions if he failed to cooperate. Turning to a written waiver of Garrity rights that Smith signed during the investigation, the Court held, as a matter of first impression, that an employee can waive his Garrity rights. The Court noted that the waiver was voluntary. It was knowing, as it informed Smith of his waiver of compelled testimony. And, “critically,” there was no violation of Garrity prior to the waiver, because none of the federal investigators had access to any statements Smith made until after he signed the waiver.