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Lawrence Coleman v. Hardy, 7th Cir No. 10-1437, 8/3/12

seventh circuit court of appeals decision

Habeas Review – Miranda-Edwards 

Coleman’s argument that his confession violated Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981) (interrogation must cease immediately if suspect requests counsel) was rejected by the state court based upon a determination that he did not in fact assert his to counsel. Denial of relief is affirmed:

Coleman admits but downplays the crucial difference here: In Edwards, there was no question (as there is here) about whether the defendant had initially invoked his right to counsel. Instead, the question in Edwards was whether the defendant subsequently waived the right after invoking it. This is a key element in the Supreme Court’s decision. …

In this case, Coleman was properly read his Miranda rights, and no state court found that he ever invoked his right to counsel. Because it was never invoked, there was also nothing in federal law (in Edwards or otherwise) preventing Coleman from implicitly waiving his right to counsel simply by responding to police questioning and eventually confessing.

Coleman counters that under Edwards, courts are required to examine the waiver of the right to counsel by considering the totality of the circumstances, and he insists that the Illinois appellate court failed to do so. …

Even assuming that the state court in this case could have written a clearer opinion, an inarticulate decision is not enough for Coleman to obtain habeas relief. For relief to follow under § 2254(d)(1), the state court must have applied federal law unreasonably, and that is a far cry from what happened here. We will not require a particular choice of words when a court is evaluating the totality of the circumstances surrounding the waiver of the right to counsel. In this case, the state court announced the correct legal standard and proceeded to weigh all the relevant factors in a reasonable fashion. Federal law required nothing more.

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