Thursday, December 09, 2010

Confession overturned as involuntary - Habeas Granted!

Today the Court rendered a decision in Dixon v. Houk. 10a0372p.06 The essential holding of the Court is - where a defendant refuses to answer after Miranda warnings, and later confesses during further interrogation without warnings, subsequent re-warning does not "cleanse" the otherwise bad confession. As Judge Merritt states in his opinion "A confession obtained by this kind of police pressure is inadmissible under Miranda and coerced and involuntary under the Due Process Clause. If the consequences of this kind of deliberate, unlawful conduct specifically designed to violate Miranda and get a confession is allowed to prevail, as our dissenting colleague contends, the time has come to simply overrule Miranda."

In Dixon, the defendant was brought to a police station, and questioned about a murder. He was given Miranda warnings, and invoked the right to remain silent. He was then released. Five days later, he was arrested for the murder. He then was subject to re-interrogation. This time, the police did not provide further Miranda warnings. After five hours of questioning, the defendant confessed. Officers, during that questioning, offered the defendant an illusory "deal", and told him that either he or his co-defendant would get the deal, whoever cooperated first. Only after confession was the tape player turned on, Miranda warnings given, and a taped confession obtained.

The Court found that the giving of Miranda warnings after the violation could not cleanse the constitutional violation. “The police designed a strategy to get a coerced confession without giving Miranda warnings. The confession would then be followed by the warnings given in a tape recording before the confession was recorded. Based on this inverted sequence of events — refusal to answer after Miranda warnings, reinterrogation without warnings, confession, recorded warnings, recorded confession — the prosecution argues that the warnings after the initial confession made the confession 'voluntary.'”

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