June 27, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Interrogation of Medically Confined Defendant Violated Due Process

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Effland v. People on September 27, 2010.

Due Process—Miranda Custody Requirements—Suppression of Involuntary Statements—Prosecutorial Misconduct.

Defendant was interrogated by police while in a hospital bed after a failed suicide pact that resulted in the death of his wife and one of his daughters. A uniformed police officer guarded defendant’s room while two investigating officers, sitting close to defendant and between him and the closed door, interrogated him. Defendant was confined for medical reasons, and the police told him that he was not in custody. Defendant repeatedly said he wished to speak to an attorney before speaking to the officers. After consulting with the district attorney, the officers told defendant he was not entitled to an attorney and continued questioning him by eliciting short answers. Under these circumstances, the Supreme Court determined defendant was in custody at the time he was interrogated and that his statements were involuntary under the due process clauses of the U.S. and Colorado Constitutions and therefore should be suppressed. Accordingly, the Court reversed the ruling by the court of appeals that he was in custody for Miranda purposes.

The Court declined to suppress defendant’s statements on the ground that the district attorney, who told the officers that defendant was not entitled to an attorney, committed prosecutorial misconduct. Because the district attorney merely explained his opinion on an undecided question of law, no outrageous government conduct occurred. The court of appeals’ judgment was affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Summary and full case available here.

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