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A Case to Watch

No questioning outside Miranda in the Eighth Circuit

Is a confession elicited in violation of Miranda when police officers:

*bring a suspect into a basement interrogation room
*interrogate him for 90 minutes
*handcuff him to a chair
*promise him lenity if he confesses
*kick chairs and scream obscenities when he does not provide the answers they want to hear?

The government argued that under Oregon v. Elstad, the previous interrogation tactics were permissible, and the statements elicited admissible, because the officers ultimately read the suspect his Miranda warnings.  The Eighth Circuit rejected this argument, in light of Missouri v. Siebert, in United States v. Antonino Cedillo Aguilar, No. 03-3892 (8th Cir, Sept. 13, 2004)."

Judge Bright, writing for Judges Murphy and and Heaney, found several factors from Siebert relevent here:

In determining whether Miranda warnings delivered midstream are effective, the Court delineated a list of factors for the court to consider. First, the court must address the extent of the first round of interrogation. The court should also address the extent to which the first round and second round of interrogation overlap. Additional factors include the timing and setting of both questioning sessions, including whether a continuity of police personnel existed. Finally, the court should examine the extent to which the interrogator's questions treated the second round as continuous with the first.


The facts before us are closer to those in Seibert than those in Elstad. While the court below did not have the benefit of the precedent in Seibert, we do, and will apply the factors in Seibert in explaining our decision and reviewing the district court's ruling. To begin, it is not entirely clear the extent of Aguilar's first questioning session. However, the court determined that the first questioning session consisted of more than routine booking questions, included some good cop/bad cop questioning tactics, and lasted approximately ninety minutes. Further, the scope of the first interrogation provided enough background for Aguilar to clearly recall events that occurred three months earlier. Aguilar's two interrogations were not separated in time, occurred in the same interrogation room, and the same officers participated in the questioning. [ ] Thus, in weighing the factors and reasoning in Seibert, we determine that providing Aguilar the Miranda warnings between the two questioning sessions did not serve the purpose of the dictates in Miranda, because it did not provide Aguilar with a meaningful opportunity to make an informed choice regarding his right to provide police with an admissible statement.

Moreover, the facts found by the magistrate judge and the magistrate judge's discussion indicate that the defendant's post-Miranda warning statement was the result of coercion and that the acts of the police were intentional. Additionally, no curative steps were taken to warn or notify defendant that his first statement would probably be admissible in court.

Slip opinion at *7-9 (citations and quotation marks omitted).

This case is a major victory for the criminal defense bar.  It dramatically curtails law enforcement's practice of questioning outside of Miranda, a perverted practice spawned from Oregon v. Elstad.