June 22, 2018

Colorado Supreme Court: Defendant’s Statements Admissible Under Two-Part Seibert Test

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Verigan v. People on Monday, June 11, 2018.

Suppression of Statements—Two-Step Interrogation—Plurality Supreme Court Opinions—Miranda Warnings.

This case required the supreme court to decide (1) whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s fractured opinion in Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004), created a precedential rule that could be applied to future cases, and (2) whether statements made by petitioner after she was given Miranda warnings should be suppressed because the statements were made after petitioner provided unwarned, incriminating statements to the police.

The court concluded that Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion in Seibert, which created an exception to the framework established in Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298 (1985), for cases involving a deliberate two-step interrogation aimed at undermining the efficiency of the Miranda warning, is the controlling precedent to be applied. Applying Justice Kennedy’s test here, the court concluded that the officers in this case did not engage in a two-step interrogation in a deliberate attempt to undermine the effectiveness of Miranda warnings provided to petitioner. Therefore, the court concluded that the Elstad framework applies, and because petitioner’s pre- and post-warning statements were indisputably voluntary, the court concluded that the division correctly determined that petitioner’s post-warning statements were admissible.

Accordingly, the court affirmed the court of appeals division’s judgment.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: Denial of Motion for New Trial Based on Inadmissible New Evidence Affirmed

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in United States v. Hill on Tuesday, December 10, 2013.

Defendant Vernon Hill was charged with bank robbery, along with his brother Stanley. Hill was convicted; Stanley was not as the jury could not agree as to him. Stanley was later retried and convicted. Several months after Defendant’s conviction, the government, having obtained cell phone data and other additional evidence, charged Defendant and his brother DeJuan with conspiring to commit various robberies, including the robbery of the bank. In presenting the new case to the grand jury, FBI agent Charles Jones testified that the government’s understanding of the bank robbery had changed: Stanley had not been one of the two masked robbers in the bank but had driven the getaway car. Dejuan had been the other robber in the bank with Defendant.

The Defendant appealed the denial of his motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. Motions based on newly discovered evidence are disfavored and denials are reviewed for abuse of discretion. The Tenth Circuit applied the five-part test in United States v. Orr in deciding if Defendant had met his burden to establish:

(1) the evidence was discovered after trial; (2) the failure to learn of the evidence was not caused by lack of diligence; (3) the new evidence is not merely impeaching or cumulative; (4) the new evidence is material to the principal issues involved; and (5) the new evidence would probably produce an acquittal if a new trial were granted.

Any new evidence must be admissible at trial. The court held that the only possible new evidence, Agent Jones’s grand jury testimony, was opinion testimony and so not admissible. It therefore affirmed the district court.