As a Brockton Criminal defense lawyer, a recent case from the Florida Supreme Court raises significant issues regarding when and how police must provide Miranda warnings under the Constitution. The case of Ross v. State, is a case where the defendant was convicted of first degree murder of his parents and sentenced to death. A key component of the State’s evidence was the defendant’s confession to the murder. The Florida Supreme Court reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial holding that the police violated the defendant’s rights under Miranda by not providing him Miranda warnings until after he made a confession; the defendant was then given Miranda warnings and again made inculpatory statements. The State of Florida has filed a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court in order to attempt to reverse the decision of the Florida Supreme Court and uphold the jury verdict. The filings in the Ross case can be found on the Scotusblog.
As a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer, the Ross decision is noteworthy in several respects. The court found the defendant first inculpatory statement custodial applying the test articulated by the United States Supreme Court in Yarborough v. Alvardo, 541 U.S. 652 (2004) where the court looks to the circumstances surrounding the interrogation and whether a reasonable person would have felt he or she was not at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave.
In a Massachusetts criminal case involving an issue of a custodial interrogation, the court would apply the factors set forth in the case of Commonwealth v. Bryant, 390 Mass. 729 (1984).
1. the place of the interrogation
2. Whether the investigation has begun to focus on the suspect 3. The nature of the interrogation whether it was aggressive or, instead, informal and influenced in its contours by the suspect; and
4. whether, at the time the incriminating statement was made, the suspect was free to end the interview by leaving the locus of the interrogation as evidenced by whether the interview ended with the arrest of the defendant.
The Florida court applied a similar test and found that all of the factors favored a custodial interrogation in that the defendant had to endure a long interrogation where he was confronted with evidence of his guilt in a highly confrontational manner without having the benefit of Miranda warnings prior to his confession.
After obtaining an incriminatory statement, the defendant was provided Miranda warning and subsequently made a second incriminatory statement. To determine whether this statement was admissible the Florida Supreme Court applied the case of Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298 (1985) and Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004), both from the United States Supreme Court.
The Elstad case addresses the issue of a statement prior to Miranda warnings followed by the police providing the warnings and then the defendant making a second incriminatory statement and would allow the second statement into evidence if a careful and thorough administration of the Miranda warnings is given and the rights are waived. This rule of allowing a late administration of the Miranda warning to be cured applies only if the police do not intentionally delay providing Miranda warnings to obtain an incriminatory statement. The Florida court found it significant in its analysis that the police downplayed the importance of the Miranda warnings in order to compel the defendant to repeat his earlier confession. The Florida Supreme Court concluded that the later statements could not be admitted into evidence because the delay in giving the Miranda warnings was designed by the police and the police downplayed the significance of the warnings once given.
Michael DelSignore is a Brockton criminal defense lawyer that represents individuals charged with felony and misdemeanor offenses throughout Massachusetts. If you are facing criminal charges in Massachusetts, call Attorney DelSignore for a free consultation, 508-455-4755 or send an email through this website.