Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Court of Appeals Update (Mar. 16, 2010)

State v. Clodfelter. During interrogation, but before giving Miranda warnings, police told defendant's mother they needed her to "talk to him for us." They all sat down together and the mother told the defendant: “Okay. If you were there – I don’t know what happened, but you’ve got to tell the truth because this man is gone. He’s never coming back. His family has lost somebody. If you know who killed him, you’ve got to tell.” And he had sat there for a minute. And he started to cry, and we talked for maybe five minutes. And he busted out crying and he said, “It was me.”

The general rule is that the police cannot elicit incriminating statements without providing a Miranda warning. Here, the court found that they did not elicit the unwarned statements because the mother, not the police, elicited the information--never mind that the police are sitting right there in the station house and told the mother to "talk to him for us." The court held the mother was not acting as an agent of the state because she was not "encouraged or actively recruited as an agent of the police to obtain incriminating statements" (in contrast with, for example, a social worker). Ms. Clodfelter herself testified that all the officers asked her to do, and all she in fact did do, was ask her son to tell the truth about his involvement in the crime. Such actions do not rise to the level of Ms. Clodfelter acting as an agent of the police.

Second, defendant's statement, in front of police, to his mother that they needed to call a lawyer was too ambiguous (and not to police) to count as an assertion of Miranda right to counsel and his request to police to leave and come back tomorrow was too vague to count as an assertion of Miranda right to remain silent.

State v. Graves. Defendant challenged conviction for felony eluding arrest (Gen. Stat. 20-141.5).

To be convicted of eluding arrest, the state must show:

1) Operate a vehicle on street or highway while fleeing a law enforcement officer, lawfully performing his duties

2) With knowledge that it is a law enforcement officer or (holding) reason to believe it is a law enforcement officer.

The charge is enhanced to a felony if, while eluding arrest, the defendant does two or more of the following:
  • Speeds in excess of 15 mph
  • Is drunk
  • Drives recklessly
  • Negligently causes an accident (with $1000 damage or injury)
  • DWLR
  • Speeds in a school zone
  • Passes a stopped school bus
  • Has a child under 12 in the car.
Here, state erred in submitting DWLR, as there was insufficient evidence of this presented. However, this doesn't result in dismissal, because the state also submitted and had sufficient evidence of speeding, reckless driving, and negligent accident, so the conviction stands (even though the jury didn't have to make specific findings of which aggravating factors it found).

No error, during charge in court defining reasonable doubt as "Proof beyond a reasonable doubt
is proof that satisfies or entirely convinces you of the defendant’s guilt" instead of the pattern which reads: "Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that fully satisfies or entirely convinces you of the defendant’s guilt"

State v. Wilson. Court found that, in IAC claim, any deficient performance was harmless because the trial would not have had any other outcome, given the overwhelming evidence, if the defendant had competent counsel.

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