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Police questioning of defendant while chained to a hospital bed was not an “interrogation”

State v. William Lester Jackson, 2018AP896-CR, District 1, 1/23/19, (not recommended for publication); case activity (including briefs)

Jackson accidentally shot himself with a firearm that a friend left in his car and then drove himself to a hospital. A detective chained him to his bed because he needed to talk to Jackson but he also had to help with chaos in the ER due to other shootings that night. Two detective later questioned Jackson without Miranda warnings, and he admitted to being a felon in possession.

Jackson lost a motion to suppress on the ground that the lack of a Miranda warning rendered his statements inadmissible.  The court of appeals agreed that Jackson was in custody and not Mirandized when made incriminating statements. It affirmed the denial of suppression because the detective’s questioning was not an interrogation–i.e. not reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response.

¶12 An interrogation encompasses questions or comments that “police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect” even though those questions or comments may not appear to do so directly. See Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 301 (1980). Here, Crawley and Becker were investigating three shootings that occurred on the same evening, one of which resulted in a death. Both officers testified that the hospital was “chaotic,” with family members of the multiple shooting victims flooding the hospital halls and seeking answers about their relatives. Both officers testified that they initially believed Jackson to be a shooting victim. They wanted to determine who shot Jackson and for what reason. Neither officer suspected that the gunshot was self-inflicted; indeed Becker testified that he inspected Jackson’s pants for gunpowder residue to determine whether Jackson was shot at close range. Becker also stated that he suspected Jackson was trying to cover for the shooter. Given all of these factors, we conclude that the officers’ questions were not designed to elicit testimonial evidence against Jackson. Jackson’s statements “were not the product of a successful ‘incommunicado interrogation’ in a police-dominated atmosphere in which the police actively sought to obtain” Jackson’s confession to a crime. See Stearns, 178 Wis. 2d at 852 (citation omitted).

The court of appeals has recognized public safety and rescue exceptions to Miranda. See State v. Kunkel, 137 Wis. 2d 172, 187-89, 404 N.W.2d 69 (Ct. App. 1987)(public safety exception)(citing New York v. Quarles, 467 U.S. 649 (1984) and State v. Uhlenberg, 2013 WI App 59, 348 Wis. 2d 44, 831 N.W.2d 799 (private safety or rescue exception). Stearns seems to have created yet another exception. Miranda did not apply because police were not trying to induce a confession. They were trying to secure the defendant’s nonviolent surrender. Stearns did not file a petition for review in his case, and SCOW does not appear to have weighed in on this exception. Perhaps the time has come.

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