Friday, December 21, 2018

Defendant Cleary Invoked Right to Remain Silent, But Questioning Didn't Stop

USv. Abdallah: Abdallah was being investigated for selling “spice” from local convenience stores in Virginia. After his arrest on federal drug charges, he was taken to a local police station and questioned. While being read his Miranda rights Abdallah stated that he “wasn’t going to say anything at all.” Nonetheless, one investigator kept reading the rights warning form, after which another asked if Abdallah knew why he was under arrest. The Miranda rights were read again and Abdallah eventually made “multiple inculpatory” statements that were used against him at trial.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit concluded that the statements should have been suppressed. The court concluded that Abdallah’s statement that he “wasn’t going to say anything at all” was an unambiguous assertion of his right to remain silent, after which the investigators should have ceased questioning. The district court had erred by looking to post-invocation facts to raise questions about the ambiguity of Abdallah’s invocation, noting that “courts cannot cast ambiguity on an otherwise clear invocation by looking to circumstances which occurred after the request.” The court also noted that such invocations need not be “measured, polite, or free of anger” and rejected the Government’s argument that such an invocation could only be dong “knowingly and intelligently” after Miranda warnings had been given. Because there was an unambiguous invocation of the right to remain silent, Abdallah’s further statements should have been suppressed and the failure to do so was not harmless. The court also held that the district court erred by not reviewing email messages between investigators in camera to determine if they were Brady material, where Abdallah had shown via conflicting testimony about his questioning that such information might be relevant.

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