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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 9, 2023 | Back issues
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Suspected Bank Robber Loses Evidence Challenge

CHICAGO (CN) - A suspected bank robber who spoke to police after first asking an interrogator for an attorney did not suffer a Miranda violation, the 7th Circuit ruled.

On Nov. 9, 2009, two black men robbed the Farmers & Merchants Bank in Burlington, Iowa, and took $44,000 cash. Based on a tip, Burlington detectives attached a GPS surveillance tracking device on the vehicle of Matthew Martin. When Martin was pulled over in Warren County, Ill., officers found small quantities of marijuana and cocaine in the car and a silver revolver under the hood.

During an interview with Chief Deputy Bruce Morath at the police station, Martin waived his Miranda rights and denied knowledge of the drugs and gun in his car. When Morath asked if Martin would be willing to provide a written statement, Martin responded, "I'd rather talk to an attorney first before I do that." Morath ended the interview and returned Martin to lockup before going home.

Two to three hours later, two Burlington detectives arrived to interview Martin about the bank robbery. Unaware that Martin had invoked his right to an attorney, the detectives apprised Martin of Miranda rights. Martin waived his rights again and told detectives that he had loaned a gun to the other suspect in the robbery.

At trial, Martin moved to suppress the statements made in the second interview, arguing that they were barred by the Supreme Court's ruling in Edwards v. Arizona. The Edwards Rule stops further interrogation after a suspect has invoked his right to counsel unless the accused initiates further communication.

"The Edwards rule serves as an absolute prohibition on further interrogation only if an accused invokes his right to counsel for all purposes," Judge Michael Kanne wrote for a two-judge majority. "The sole question in this case is whether Martin's statement 'I'd rather talk to an attorney first before I do that,' served as an absolute prohibition on further interrogation or was limited in its scope to written statements."

But the 7th Circuit rejected this argument, finding Martin's Fifth Amendment invocation applied only to the request for a written statement.

"Martin did not suffer a constitutional deprivation," Kanne wrote. "His invocation of the right to counsel was clearly limited in its scope to written statements. Martin did not provide a written statement, nor did officers request one, after he invoked his right to counsel."

Judge Diane Wood dissented, holding that Martin never affirmatively indicated that he was restricting his request for counsel to the written statement.

"The majority's approach drives yet another hole into the protections that the Miranda warnings are supposed to afford, and it does so in a way that fails to take into account the realities of the situation that a man like Martin faces," she wrote.

"I agree with them that Martin's request for counsel was unambiguous. But, stare at it as I might, I cannot see in the words 'before I do that' anything approaching 'clear' limitation of his concededly unambiguous request for counsel."

Deputy Morath's decision to leave the room immediately following Martin's request for an attorney could be viewed either as a voluntary conclusion to the interview or a reaction to Martin's Fifth Amendment invocation, Wood pointed out.

"Because Martin never affirmatively stated that he was willing to continue to talk to the officers, because the record shows that Deputy Morath realized that Martin wanted interrogation to cease until an attorney arrived for him, and because the majority attributes meaning to Martin's statement that it cannot bear, I respectfully dissent."

Wood said the Dec. 30 decision may have created a circuit split, ripe for Supreme Court intervention, noting that the 2nd Circuit's 1993 decision in USA v. Quiroz.

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