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Massachusetts Supreme Court: Prosecution Failed to Prove Defendant Knowingly, Voluntarily, and Intelligently Waived Right to Counsel After Having Asked for Lawyer Earlier But Officer Continued to Engage in ‘General’ Talk for Nearly 45 Minutes

by Anthony W. Accurso

The Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts upheld the suppression of a defendant’s statements to police after invoking his right to an attorney, because the Commonwealth failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived his right to counsel.

A January 2016 backyard shooting in Springfield claimed the life of the father of a state trooper. DNA testing of evidence at the scene implicated a person who, after questioning, stated that Edward Gonzalez was involved in the shooting.

Gonzalez was arrested a little after midnight on May 26, 2016, and after a “courtesy booking” in Holyoke, was transported to Springfield police headquarters. Captain Trent Duda assigned Det. Jose Canini to accompany Sgt. Jeffrey Martucci in the interrogation because Gonzalez’s primary language was Spanish, though he had some proficiency with English.

Martucci advised Gonzales that he was a suspect in the murder and read him his Miranda rights. Gonzales initially waived his rights and indicated such by signing a waiver form, and the interrogation began at 1:52 a.m. Gonzalez denied any involvement in the shooting and, according to the trial court, demanded the interrogators provide “any photographs, video recordings, or other incriminating evidence showing that he had been there.” Canini and Martucci swore and yelled at Gonzalez, who asked, “Why—are you yelling at me?”

A few minutes later, Gonzalez asked in Spanish, “Can I call my lawyer?” Initially, his request was ignored, and Canini continued telling Gonzalez that someone put him at the scene of the murder. Gonzalez again asked to call his lawyer. The trial court found that he asked for a lawyer four times before the interrogation was eventually terminated. Additionally, the court noted that it was clear from Canini’s tone and words that he was frustrated and angry that Gonzalez had invoked his right to counsel.

What happened next is unclear because the testimony of the officers during the suppression hearing was contradictory and vague, but the court determined that Canini and Gonzalez spent a majority of the following hour in the interrogation room alone with the recording equipment turned off, ostensibly awaiting approval from the booking supervisor to take Gonzalez for booking.

Canini claimed that he couldn’t recall what he and Gonzalez spoke about during their time together but claimed that Gonzalez “did not say anything of evidentiary significance,” although he did recall they “weren’t silent” in the interrogation room. Canini also claimed that eventually Gonzalez agreed to “talk to him bud, did not want to get yelled at.” The conversation wasn’t recorded, and Canini failed to prepare a report memorializing it.

About 45 minutes after Gonzalez invoked his right to counsel and terminated the earlier interrogation, the second interrogation began after having again ostensibly waived his Miranda rights, though he didn’t sign a second waiver. He spoke to police for about an hour and was eventually booked for murder.

Gonzalez moved to suppress the statements he made after initially invoking his right to counsel. The Superior Court granted the motion, after a three-day evidentiary hearing, on the ground that the Commonwealth failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gonzalez reinitiated communication with the police after having invoked his right to counsel. The Court of Appeal reversed, and Gonzalez appealed.

The Court began its analysis by stating that the dispositive issue is whether the Commonwealth has established beyond a reasonable doubt that Gonzalez voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waived his Miranda rights and reinitiated a conversation with police after having previously invoked his right to counsel. See Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981).

The Fifth Amendment provides that “No person ... shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), the U.S. Supreme Court extended that protection to custodial interrogations and requires police to inform suspects about their right to remain silent and right to counsel. See Commonwealth v. Hoyt, 958 N.E.2d 834 (Mass. 2011).

Once invoked by a suspect, the right to counsel must be “scrupulously honored.” Commonwealth v. Thomas, 21 N.E. 901 (Mass. 2014) (quoting Michigan v. Mosely, 423 U.S. 96 (1975)). The moment a suspect invokes his right to counsel, all questioning must stop. Edwards. Questioning may only resume with an attorney present or the suspect initiates “further communication, exchanges, or conversations with the police.” Id. In the event the suspect reinitiates further communication, the prosecution bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the subsequent waiver of rights was “voluntary, knowing, and intelligent.” Commonwealth v. Rankins, 709 N.E.2d 405 (Mass. 1999) (citing Oregon v. Bradshaw, 462 U.S. 1039 (1983)).

The standard in determining whether the prosecution has met its burden is “whether, in light of the totality of the circumstances surrounding the making of the statement, the will of the defendant was overborne to the extent that the statement was not the result of a free and voluntary act.” Commonwealth v. Selby, 651 N.E.2d 843 (Mass. 1995). Merely showing that the suspect agreed to further questioning after being read his Miranda rights again is insufficient to satisfy the burden. Edwards. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that police did not initiate the discussion that ultimately resulted in the suspect rescinding his request for counsel. See Hoyt. Reviewing courts weigh “every reasonable presumption against” a suspect’s waiver of his constitutional rights. Commonwealth v. Torres, 813 N.E.2d (Mass. 2004).

Turning to the present case, the Court focused on the trial court’s characterization of the police officers’ testimony as “self-serving” and not shedding any “light on what transpired” between the ending of the first interrogation and the start of the second one. The trial court determined that Canini’s testimony that he and Gonzalez only engaged in “general” talk not about the case but that he couldn’t recall what they spoke about doesn’t satisfy the beyond a reasonable doubt standard of proof.

According to the trial court, Canini was “clearly displeased” that Gonzalez invoked his right to counsel, and it’s reasonable to infer that Canini continued to engage in conversation with Gonzalez “to persuade him to change his mind.” The trial court also noted that all officers involved understood the importance of Canini’s conversation with Gonzalez after he invoked his right to counsel while allegedly waiting for booking, yet none of them decided to record it, despite the means to do so readily at their disposal, or document the conversation in a report.

The Court explained that because ultimate conclusions regarding the voluntariness of waivers of constitutional rights “is so dependent on an assessment of witness credibility” and reasonable inferences, substantial deference is accorded the trial court’s findings of fact and drawing of reasonable inferences. Demoulas v. Demoulas Super Mkts., Inc., 677 N.E.2d 159 (Mass. 1997). The Court further explained that it must “make an independent determination of the correctness of the judge’s application of constitutional principles to the facts as found.” Quoting Commonwealth v. Howard, 16 N.E.3d 1054 (Mass. 2014).

The Court concluded that the record, such as it is, supports the trial court’s findings and that there’s no clear error. Thus, the Court held that the Commonwealth failed to satisfy its burden of proving that Gonzalez’s waiver in question was made voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently.

Accordingly, the Court affirmed the order allowing the motion to suppress. See: Commonwealth v. Gonzalez, 169 N.E. 485 (Mass. 2021). 

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Related legal cases

Commonwealth v. Gonzalez

Commonwealth v. Hoyt

Edwards v. Arizona

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
451 U.S. 477; 101 S. Ct. 1880; 68 L. Ed. 2d 378

ROBERT EDWARDS v. ARIZONA

No. 79-5269

November 5, 1980, Argued

May 18, 1981, Decided

PRIOR HISTORY:

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ARIZONA.

DISPOSITION: 122 Ariz. 206, 594 P. 2d 72, reversed.


SYLLABUS:

After being arrested on a state criminal charge, and after being informed of his rights as required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, petitioner was questioned by the police on January 19, 1976, until he said that he wanted an attorney. Questioning then ceased, but on January 20 police officers came to the jail and, after stating that they wanted to talk to him and again informing petitioner of his Miranda rights, obtained his confession when he said that he was willing to talk. The trial court ultimately denied petitioner's motion to suppress his confession, finding the statement to be voluntary, and he was thereafter convicted. The Arizona Supreme Court held that during the January 20 meeting he waived his right to remain silent and his right to counsel when he voluntarily gave his statement after again being informed of his rights.

Held: The use of petitioner's confession against him at his trial violated his right under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to have counsel present during custodial interrogation, as declared in Miranda, supra. Having exercised his right on January 19 to have counsel present during interrogation, petitioner did not validly waive that right on the 20th. Pp. 481-487.

(a) A waiver of the right to counsel, once invoked, not only must be voluntary, but also must constitute a knowing and intelligent relinquishment of a known right or privilege. Here, however, the state courts applied an erroneous standard for determining waiver by focusing on the voluntariness of petitioner's confession rather than on whether he understood his right to counsel and intelligently and knowingly relinquished it. Pp. 482-484.

(b) When an accused has invoked his right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation, a valid waiver of that right cannot be established by showing only that he responded to police-initiated interrogation after being again advised of his rights. An accused, such as petitioner, having expressed his desire to deal with the police only through counsel, is not subject to further interrogation until counsel has been made available to him, unless the accused has himself initiated further communication, exchanges, or conversations with the police. Here, the interrogation of petitioner on January 20 was at the instance of the authorities, and his confession, made without having had access to counsel, did not amount to a valid waiver and hence was inadmissible. Pp. 484-487.

COUNSEL: Michael J. Meehan, by appointment of the Court, 447 U.S. 903, argued the cause and filed briefs for petitioner.

Crane McClennen, Assistant Attorney General of Arizona, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the briefs were Robert K. Corbin, Attorney General, and William J. Schafer III.

JUDGES: WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, STEWART, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BURGER, C. J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 487. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result, in which REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 488.

OPINION: [*478] [***382] [**1881] JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.


We granted certiorari in this case, 446 U.S. 950 (1980), limited to Question 1 presented in the petition, which in relevant part was "whether the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments require suppression of a post-arrest confession, which was obtained after Edwards had invoked his right to consult counsel before further interrogation . . . ."

I

On January 19, 1976, a sworn complaint was filed against Edwards in Arizona state court charging him with robbery, burglary, and first-degree murder. n1 An arrest warrant was issued pursuant to the complaint, and Edwards was arrested at his home later [**1882] that same day. At the police station, he was informed of his rights as required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). Petitioner stated that he understood his rights, and was willing to submit to questioning. After [*479] being told that another suspect already in custody had implicated him in the crime, Edwards denied involvement and gave a taped statement presenting an alibi defense. He then sought to "make a deal." The interrogating officer told him that he wanted a statement, but that he did not have the authority to negotiate a deal. The officer provided Edwards with the telephone number of a county attorney. Petitioner made the call, but hung up after a few moments. Edwards then said: "I want an attorney before making a deal." At that point, questioning ceased and Edwards was taken to county jail.

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n1 The facts stated in text are for the most part taken from the opinion of the Supreme Court of Arizona.


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At 9:15 the next morning, two detectives, colleagues of the officer who had interrogated Edwards the previous night, came to the jail and asked to see Edwards. When the detention officer informed Edwards that the detectives wished to speak with him, he replied that he did not want to talk to anyone. The guard told him that "he had" to talk and then took him to meet with the [***383] detectives. The officers identified themselves, stated they wanted to talk to him, and informed him of his Miranda rights. Edwards was willing to talk, but he first wanted to hear the taped statement of the alleged accomplice who had implicated him. n2 After listening to the tape for several minutes, petitioner said that he would make a statement so long as it was not tape-recorded. The detectives informed him that the recording was irrelevant since they could testify in court concerning whatever he said. Edwards replied: "I'll tell you anything you want to know, but I don't want it on tape." He thereupon implicated himself in the crime.

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n2 It appears from the record that the detectives had brought the tape-recording with them.


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Prior to trial, Edwards moved to suppress his confession on the ground that his Miranda rights had been violated when the officers returned to question him after he had invoked his right to counsel. The trial court initially granted [*480] the motion to suppress, n3 but reversed its ruling when presented with a supposedly controlling decision of a higher Arizona court. n4 The court stated without explanation that it found Edwards' statement to be voluntary. Edwards was tried twice and convicted. n5 Evidence concerning his confession was admitted at both trials.

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n3 The trial judge emphasized that the detectives had met with Edwards on January 20, without being requested by Edwards to do so, and concluded that they had ignored his request for counsel made the previous evening. App. 91-93.


n4 The case was State v. Travis, 26 Ariz. App. 24, 545 P. 2d 986 (1976).


n5 The jury in the first trial was unable to reach a verdict.


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On appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court held that Edwards had invoked both his right to remain silent and his right to counsel during the interrogation conducted on the night of January 19. n6 122 Ariz. 206, 594 P. 2d 72. The court then went on to determine, however, that Edwards had waived both rights during the January 20 meeting when he voluntarily gave his statement to the detectives after again being informed that he need not answer questions and that he need not answer without the advice of counsel: "The trial court's finding that the waiver and confession were voluntarily and knowingly made is upheld." Id., at 212, 594 P. 2d, at 78.

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n6 This issue was disputed by the State. The court, while finding that the question was arguable, held that Edwards' request for an attorney to assist him in negotiating a deal was "sufficiently clear" within the context of the interrogation that it "must be interpreted as a request for counsel and as a request to remain silent until counsel was present." 122 Ariz., at 211, 594 P. 2d, at 77.


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Because the use of Edward's confession against him at his trial violated his rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments as construed in Miranda v. Arizona, [**1883] supra, we reverse the judgment of the Arizona Supreme Court. n7

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n7 We thus need not decide Edwards' claim that the State deprived him of his right to counsel under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments as construed and applied in Massiah v. United States, 377 U.S. 201 (1964). In that case, the Court held that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel arises whenever an accused has been indicted or adversary criminal proceedings have otherwise begun and that this right is violated when admissions are subsequently elicited from the accused in the absence of counsel. While initially conceding in its opening brief on the merits that Edwards' right to counsel under Massiah attached immediately after he was formally charged, the State in its supplemental brief and during oral argument took the position that under Kirby v. Illinois, 406 U.S. 682, 689-690 (1972), and Moore v. Illinois, 434 U.S. 220, 226-227 (1977), the filing of the formal complaint did not constitute the "adversary judicial criminal proceedings" necessary to trigger the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Under the State Constitution, "[no] person shall be prosecuted criminally in any court of record for felony or misdemeanor, otherwise than by information or indictment; no person shall be prosecuted for felony by information without having had a preliminary examination before a magistrate or having waived such preliminary examination." Ariz. Const., Art. 2, § 30. The State contends that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel does not attach until either the constitutionally required indictment or information is filed or at least no earlier than the preliminary hearing to which a defendant is entitled if the matter proceeds by complaint. Under Arizona law, a felony prosecution may be commenced by way of a complaint, Ariz. Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.2. The complaint is a "written statement of the essential facts constituting a public offense, made upon oath before a magistrate," Rule 2.3, upon which the magistrate either issues an arrest warrant or dismisses the complaint. Rule 2.4. Once arrested, the accused must be taken before the magistrate for a hearing. Rule 4.1. At that hearing, the magistrate ascertains the accused's true name and address, and informs him of the charges against him, his right to counsel, his right to remain silent, and his right to a preliminary hearing if charged via complaint. Rule 4.2. Unless waived, the preliminary hearing must take place no later than 10 days after the defendant is placed in custody. Rule 5.1. The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether probable cause exists to hold the defendant for trial. Rule 5.3. Against this background and in support of its position, the State relies on Moore v. Illinois, supra, where after recognizing that under Illinois law "[the] prosecution in this case was commenced . . . when the victim's complaint was filed in court," we noted that "adversary judicial criminal proceedings" were initiated when the ensuing preliminary hearing occurred. Moore, supra, at 228. Cf. United States v. Duvall, 537 F.2d 15, 20-22 (CA2) (the filing of a complaint and the issuance of an arrest warrant does not trigger the right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment, that right accruing only upon further proceedings), cert. denied, 426 U.S. 950 (1976). The Arizona Supreme Court did not address the Sixth Amendment question, nor do we.


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[*481] II

[***384]

In Miranda v. Arizona, the Court determined that HN1the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments' prohibition against compelled self-incrimination required that custodial interrogation be [*482] preceded by advice to the putative defendant that he has the right to remain silent and also the right to the presence of an attorney. 384 U.S., at 479. The Court also indicated the procedures to be followed subsequent to the warnings. If the accused indicates that he wishes to remain silent, "the interrogation must cease." If he requests counsel, "the interrogation must cease until an attorney is present." Id., at 474.

Miranda thus declared that an accused has a Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation. Here, the critical facts as found by the Arizona Supreme Court are that Edwards asserted his right to counsel and his right to remain silent on January 19, but that the police, without furnishing him counsel, returned the next morning to confront him and, as a result of the meeting, secured incriminating oral admissions. Contrary to the holdings of the state courts, Edwards insists that having exercised his right on the 19th to have counsel present during interrogation, he did not validly waive that right on the [***385] 20th. For the following reasons, we agree.

First, the Arizona Supreme Court applied an erroneous standard for determining [**1884] waiver where the accused has specifically invoked his right to counsel. It is reasonably clear under our cases that HN2waivers of counsel must not only be voluntary, but must also constitute a knowing and intelligent relinquishment or abandonment of a known right or privilege, a matter which depends in each case "upon the particular facts and circumstances surrounding that case, including the background, experience, and conduct of the accused." Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458, 464 (1938). See Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 835 (1975); North Carolina v. Butler, 441 U.S. 369, 374-375 (1979); Brewer v. Williams, 430 U.S. 387, 404 [*483] (1977); Fare v. Michael C., 442 U.S. 707, 724-725 (1979).

Considering the proceedings in the state courts in the light of this standard, we note that in denying petitioner's motion to suppress, the trial court found the admission to have been "voluntary," App. 3, 95, without separately focusing on whether Edwards had knowingly and intelligently relinquished his right to counsel. The Arizona Supreme Court, in a section of its opinion entitled "Voluntariness of Waiver," stated that in Arizona, confessions are prima facie involuntary and that the State had the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the confession was freely and voluntarily made. The court stated that the issue of voluntariness should be determined based on the totality of the circumstances as it related to whether an accused's action was "knowing and intelligent and whether his will [was] overborne." 122 Ariz., at 212, 594 P. 2d, at 78. Once the trial court determines that "the confession is voluntary, the finding will not be upset on appeal absent clear and manifest error." Ibid. The court then upheld the trial court's finding that the "waiver and confession were voluntarily and knowingly made." Ibid.

In referring to the necessity to find Edwards' confession knowing and intelligent, the State Supreme Court cited Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 226 (1973). Yet, it is clear that Schneckloth does not control the issue presented in this case. The issue in Schneckloth was under what conditions an individual could be found to have consented to a search and thereby waived his Fourth Amendment rights. The Court declined to impose the "intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known right or privilege" standard and required only that the consent be voluntary under the totality of the

 

 

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