Friday, December 15, 2006

Missouri v. Seibert Split Interrogation Claim Fails

State v. Saner, No. 05-0527 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 13, 2006).

Defendant was convicted of first degree murder in Des Moines County on a set of facts that makes me wonder whether there is any intelligent life on this planet.

Saner filed a motion to suppress statements that he made to law enforcement concerning the events that had taken place. The district court overruled his motion. Saner was convicted and this appeal followed.

Saner was interviewed two times a few hours apart.

In the first interview, Saner agreed to talk to police and subsequently was driven to the police station by a friend. Saner and two friends were together and not restrained and were never told they could not leave the police station. Saner was taken to an interview room and was interviewed without a Miranda warning. He gave some interesting information and then was allowed to leave.

On balance, the Court of Appeals held that the factors suggesting Saner was not in custody outweighed tbe factors that suggested that this was a custodial interriogation. Saner testified at trial that he was, in fact, free to leave in the course of the interview.

In the second interview, Saner showed police some knives at his apartment. He was again interviewed and this time he was given the Miranda warning and thereafter made damaging admissions that led to him being arrested.

Saner argued that Missouri v. Seibert should apply to the case. Seibert is a U.S. Supreme Court decision that disapproved of a split interrogation that first breaches the Defendant's confidences, elicits incriminating information and then sanitizes the procedure by administering the Miranda warning prior to the second interview. The process is sometimes called 'beachheading' and it is taught by some police trainers as a way wo get around the strictures of Miranda.

The state argued that Seibert did not apply because Saner was not in custody in the first interview. The Court of Appeals agreed, saying that the dictate of Seibert regarding a dual custodial interrogation were inapplicable to this case.

All we here at the Reporter can say about this is to restate the words of Geoffrey Chaucer in the Nun's Priest's Tale: "Murder will out, as we see day by day


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