Irate Dissents Over Teen’s Tossed Confession

     PASADENA, Calif. (CN) — Saying the court has “let a confessed murderer walk,” a judge slammed the Ninth Circuit on Wednesday for voting against an en banc rehearing.
     U.S. Circuit Judge Consuelo Callahan’s impassioned dissent today comes over a year after the Ninth Circuit found that Adrian Reyes’ conviction rested on an illegally obtained confession.
     Detectives in Riverside County, California, had set their sights on 15-year-old Reyes in February 2006 — about a month after Derek Ochoa, a 16-year-old from Reyes’ school, was killed in a drive-by shooting.
     The teen had not been under arrest when he submitted to questioning at the police station after detectives executed a search warrant on his home.
     No family members accompanied the teen, and no one read him a Miranda warning, but someone did inform Reyes that he could stop the interview at any time.
     A transcript of the interview indicates that it lasted for approximately two hours.
     Reyes confessed the next day after learning he had failed a surprise polygraph test.
     No one read Reyes his rights, however, before obtaining his confession at the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Station.
     Indeed it was not until detectives returned the boy to the Riverside police department, and informed him that he was no longer free to leave, that someone delivered a Miranda warning.
     Saying they needed to “clarify stuff,” the detectives asked Reyes if they could “talk about the stuff we talked about earlier today.” Under more questioning, Reyes repeated his confession.
     At his trial, the court decided to suppress only the confession obtained at the sheriff’s station.
     The judge deemed the post-Miranda confession fair game, and a jury convicted Reyes of first-degree murder with gang and firearm enhancements.
     Sentenced to 50 years to life, Reyes’ appeals met with little success over the years.
     That changed in August 2015 when a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit found that Reyes’ confession violated the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2004 opinion in Missouri v. Seibert.
     In Seibert, Justice Anthony Kennedy’s concurrence says a post-Miranda warning statement must be suppressed if interrogating officers deliberately obtained a confession by a two-step technique — which involves interrogating in successive, unwarned and warned phases.
     Judge William Fletcher wrote for the court last year that a Seibert analysis was “clearly required” for in the case at hand — “where police interrogated 15-year-old Reyes over the course of two days; where on the first day at the Riverside police station they conducted a two-hour unwarned interrogation; where on the second day at the San Bernardino sheriff’s station they obtained a confession during an unwarned interrogation following an unwarned custodial polygraph test; and where they transported Reyes back to the Riverside police station and obtained a postwarning confession ‘clarifying’ what he had stated at the sheriff’s station.”
     California prosecutors sought an en banc rehearing but failed to get the vote Wednesday — prompting two separate dissents by five judges.
     Callahan criticized the panel for putting on “a supreme display of Ninth Circuit legerdemain” in finding that the confession was obtained in violation of Seibert.
     “The panel truly conjured its magic from nothing — the panel did not watch the videos of the police interviews, Reyes argued to the state appellate court that a deliberate Miranda violation was not at issue, and Reyes never mentioned Seibert in federal court until the panel told him to,” Callahan wrote, joined by Judges O’Scannlain, Tallman, Bea and Ikuta.
     The dissent notes that seven other justices “rejected” Kennedy’s concurring opinion in Seibert.
     Applying Seibert in this case “wrongly requires all courts to presume the worst of police officers in applying Seibert,” Callahan said.
     “The panel’s decision not only misunderstands Seibert, conflicts with our recent en banc decision, and creates circuit splits, but also threatens to interfere with police work and let a confessed murderer walk,” Callahan added.
     Fletcher meanwhile wrote Wednesday that there is little evidence beyond the questionable confessions that Reyes is a murder.
     “Except for Reyes’s confession, the evidence at trial pointed to Reyes’s cousin, [Andres] Munoz, as the shooter,” a concurring opinion by Fletcher says.
     “It is undisputed that Reyes was a passenger in the back seat, and that Munoz was the driver,” Fletcher added. “Two witnesses testified that the driver of the car shot the victim. One of the witnesses identified Munoz as the driver and shooter. The other witness testified that the driver was the shooter, but could not identify Munoz.”
     Reyes did not want to snitch on his older cousin and may have thought that a confession would have limited adverse consequences for him, the judge said.
     Furthermore, the panel described “in painstaking detail every interaction between the officers and Reyes” when it unanimously concluded “that a court cannot reasonably determine, based on the factual record, that the officers did not deliberately undermine the effectiveness of the Miranda warning,” Fletcher said.

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