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July 25 — Police violated a suspect's right to remain silent when they continued to ask him questions after he said “I don't want to talk no more, man,” a divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled July 22 ( Jones v. Harrington, 2016 BL 235726, 9th Cir., No. 13-56360, 7/22/16 ).
No fair-minded jurist could conclude that this statement was so ambiguous that the police needed to resume the interrogation to clarify what the suspect meant, the court said in an opinion by Judge Jay S. Bybee.
The California appellate court reasoned that Kevin Jones Jr. hadn't unambiguously invoked his right to remain silent by stating that he didn't want to talk anymore because, when the officer replied “I understand that,” Jones interrupted the officer by adding “You don't want to hear what I'm telling you.”
Taken in context, that follow-up remark reveals that Jones was simply expressing his frustration that the police didn't believe him, not that he was no longer willing to talk, the California court said.
The Ninth Circuit ruled that this was error because follow-up responses to continued interrogation can't be relied on to demonstrate that the invocation of rights was ambiguous or equivocal. The court found support in Smith v. Illinois, 469 U.S. 91 (1984) which stands for the proposition that “once a suspect clearly invokes his right to counsel, officers may not continue to question him and use his answers to those questions to cast retrospective doubt on the clarity of his initial invocation.”
Judge Alex Kozinski joined the opinion. Judge Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain dissented, arguing that a reasonable jurist could find that Jones's statement was not unambiguous when considered in full context.
The Federal Public Defender's Office represented Jones. The California Attorney General's Office, represented the state.
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