June 21, 2011

Colorado Supreme Court 5-31-11 criminal law decision People v. Klinck

People v. Klinck            Miranda – Custody and Voluntariness           
Facts: Police go to Mr. Klinck’s home on a domestic violence call. Once there, the police tell Mr. Klinck to stay on the porch while they interviewed Mr. Klinck’s girlfriend, the complaining witness. After interviewing the complaining witness, the police interrogate Mr. Klinck on the porch of his home. Of course, the police claim that Mr. Klinck made incriminating statements during this interrogation on the porch. The police then arrest Mr. Klinck, transport him to the station, Mirandize him, but this time Mr. Klinck asks for a lawyer. However, uninvited, the detectives assigned to the case interrogate Mr. Klinck without a lawyer. Both claimed that neither knew Mr. Klinck previously invoked his right to a lawyer. Unfortunately this time, Mr. Klinck waives his rights and makes more incriminating statements. The trial court suppressed all of Mr. Klinck’s statements. The trial court found that the police held Mr. Klinck in custody during the interrogation on the porch, and that the police violated Mr. Klinck’s right to have an attorney present when they re-interrogated him uninvited after Mr. Klinck asked for a lawyer. Further, the trial court held that all of Mr. Klinck’s statements made after he invoked his right to an attorney were involuntary. On appeal, the defense conceded Mr. Klinck voluntarily made the statements on the porch. Likewise, the prosecution conceded the police violated Mr. Klinck’s rights when they interrogated him after Mr. Klinck asked for a lawyer. Justice Hobbs wrote the opinion for the Court.
Issue: Whether the police held Mr. Klinck in custody when they interrogated him on the porch of his girlfriend's home?
Held: No.
Reasoning: Despite the officer on scene stopping Mr. Klinck from walking with the complaining witness to the squad car, re-directing him back to the house, and telling him to stay on the porch while he interviewed the complaining witness, the Court, nevertheless held, that the police did not hold Mr. Klinck in custody. The Court reasoned that because Mr. Klinck was at his girlfriend’s home, not put into any physical restraints, and the cop claimed to question Mr. Klinck in ‘conversational’ tone, none of what the cop did amounted to a formal arrest - thus, under a simplistic, unrealistic, binary rubric, not custody.
Issue: Whether Mr. Klinck voluntarily made statements despite the police violating his right to have a lawyer present during the interrogation and not ending the interrogation when Mr. Klinck asked?
Held: Yes, the statements are all voluntary.
Reasoning: We’ve come so far afield from the moorings of Miranda, where  previously any statements taken in violation of Miranda were presumed to be involuntary. Of course here, the Court found the statements were voluntary. The Court again bought the officer’s claims of speaking in ‘conversational’ tones, and the Court ignored that halfway into the 5-hour interrogation that Mr. Klinck asked to end the interrogation. The Court points out that even though Mr. Klinck became emotional and tearful after asking to end the interrogation, that he did not ask again for the interrogation to stop. Perhaps, and just spitballing here, because the cops did not care the first time he asked?

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