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One Court of Justice Blog

June 27, 2013

MSC holds that Miranda was not violated during parolee's interview with parole officer in the jail library

In People v Elliot, the Michigan Supreme Court held that a parolee was not under custodial interrogation and therefore not entitled to Miranda warnings or the presence of counsel during a meeting with a parole officer in the jail library, during which he admitted to committing an armed robbery. The defendant was incarcerated for failing to report to his parole officer, and had already requested the assistance of an attorney after being questioned by police about the robbery three days earlier. The court reversed the Michigan Court of Appeals, which had held that the defendant was entitled to Miranda warnings because the parole officer was a law enforcement officer for the purposes of Miranda questioning. The Michigan Supreme Court found that the meeting was not a 'custodial interrogation' under Miranda because even though the defendant was incarcerated and could not leave without a deputy escort, the situation was free from the coercive forces that lead to compelled self-incrimination that the Miranda warnings are intended to help prevent.

The concurrence agreed that the defendant's confession should be admitted because even if the questioning was a custodial interrogation, the defendant waived the right to the presence of counsel during this interrogation. After the initial questioning of the defendant, during which he requested an attorney after receiving proper Miranda warnings, he wrote a letter to the police expressing a desire to discuss the robbery further. Since the defendant initiated further contact with the police, he waived presence of counsel.

The dissent would have held that the confession was inadmissible because for Miranda purposes, the initial police interrogation and the conversation with the parole officer in the jail library were part of one custodial interrogation, even though they were three days apart. Since the parole officer interrogated the defendant on the same subject as the police in the earlier interrogation had, and the defendant was incarcerated in the interim, albeit on an unrelated parole violation, the defendant was still entitled to the presence of counsel at the interview. The dissent would not have relied on the waiver rationale endorsed by the concurrence because the letter did not appear in the record.

 

 

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