9th Cir. Reverses Gang Murder Judgment

     PASADENA, Calif. (CN) — Police violated the Miranda rights of a murder suspect who said, “I don’t want to talk no more,” the Ninth Circuit ruled, ordering the state to release him or hold a new trial.
     In 2003, the Los Angeles Police Department was investigating a shooting in which a teenage member of the Eight Treys Gangster Crips was killed and two others were wounded.
     Acting on information from an informant, the police picked up Kevin Jones Jr. on Aug. 15, 2003, and brought him to the police station. Jones, according to the informant, was a member of a rival gang, the Westside Rolling 90s Crips, and owned a car matching the description of the one the shooter drove.
     Jones was uncooperative and told a contradictory story, according to court records. Finally, he said, “I don’t want to talk no more, man.”
     The detective said, “I understand that, but the bottom line is…” Jones then pressed on and eventually made several incriminating statements, including that he drove the car during the shooting.
     His statements were integral to the prosecution’s strategy during trial. Jones was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 80 years to life in prison.
     The California Court of Appeal denied Jones’s appeal, finding that “I don’t want to talk no more” was ambiguous when taken in context with the statements made afterward.
     After the California Supreme Court denied his petition, he filed a federal habeas petition that a magistrate judge denied.
     But the Ninth Circuit ruled Friday that Jones must either be released or given a new trial.
     Writing for a three-member panel, Judge Jay Bybee said finding that the statement was made ambiguous by later statements clearly flew in the face of established U.S. Supreme Court precedent set by Miranda v. Arizona.
     “The Supreme Court has made clear that once a person being questioned ‘indicates in any manner that he does not wish to be interrogated, the police may not question him,'” Bybee wrote.
     Because Jones unambiguously stated that he no longer wished to talk, he had invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, the Ninth Circuit ruled.
     “And the California [Court of Appeal]’s allusion to the fact that officers only interrogated Jones briefly after his invocation is of no matter. Even one question was one question too many,” Bybee wrote, also finding that Jones was not required to reassert his right to silence.
     Jones was represented by public defenders Kathryn Young and Hilary Potashner in Los Angeles.
     The state was represented by the Deputy Attorneys General David Glassman, Stephanie Miyoshi and Ana R. Duarte, as well as prosecutors Lance Winters and Gerald Engler and California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
     Spokeswoman Brenda Gonzalez said Harris’ office is reviewing the opinion.
     The other attorneys did not respond to phone calls or emails requesting comment Monday.

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