The Teen Prisoner's Dilemma | Cup of Joe
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This week’s case observes first-hand the slimy underbelly of teen interrogations by law enforcement. And this week YOU will be the judge.
As the assigned judge in this case, YOU will have to rule whether the arrested teen clearly asked to have his lawyer present, according to his Miranda Rights, before answering any questions by the police. A teenager’s life is in the balance, so, good luck.
Here is the law in New York that you must know: It is a requirement that a suspect in a criminal matter, even one not yet charged or arraigned, who requests a lawyer may not be questioned anymore until the lawyer shows up. Here is where it gets a little tricky: the request for an attorney has to be crystal clear.
For example, a suggestion that a lawyer might be desired; a notification that a lawyer exists; or a question as to whether they should get a lawyer will not be enough to invoke the right to have an attorney present.
That’s what this case is about; and that is what you will decide. Here are the facts:
A week after an alleged sexual offense occurred, the police arrested 19-year-old Malik. He was brought to the police station in handcuffs where police took his phone, shackled his leg to a chair, and instructed him to sit and wait in a small room.
He was not informed of why he had been brought to the police station or what the police wanted to talk about. After waiting alone for close to two hours, a detective entered the room.
MALIK: What's going on?
DETECTIVE: I know you want to figure this out and why you're down here and I want to explain it to you. Have you ever heard of Miranda rights?
DETECTIVE: So, you ever watch Cops, Law and Order, anything like that?
MALIK: Yeah, I've seen a couple of them.
DETECTIVE: You know, when they interview people they have to inform them of their rights. These are your Miranda rights.
MALIK: Oh, the right to remain silent?
The Detective then read a set of standard Miranda rights to Malik, including the right to counsel. After that, the questioning proceeded as follows:
DETECTIVE: Do you understand each of your rights?
MALIK: Yeah, definitely. I just wish that I'd memorized my lawyer's number. He's in my phone. Is it possible for me to like call him or something?
DETECTIVE: Do you want your lawyer here?
MALIK: Right now?
MALIK: If I could get a hold of him 'cause I don't know his number; it's in my phone.
MALIK: But you could still tell me what's going on though, right?
DETECTIVE: No, I can't talk to you if you if you want your lawyer here and you already said you did, so let's, you know what, let's give him a call.
MALIK: And if he don't answer then can you come talk to me?
MALIK: So what happens if he don't answer?
DETECTIVE: Ah, I mean, we'll, we'll deal with that if it happens. Let's hope he answers. I mean, from the sound of it, it sounds like you understand your Miranda rights and you want your attorney.
DETECTIVE: Is that… am I understanding that correctly?
MALIK: Well, yeah, I just, to be honest I just really want to know what's going on, you said something about stuff, you know, I don't know what the hell happened, what incident happened. I just really want to know what's going on. That's pretty much it.
MALIK: That's all.
DETECTIVE: Okay. So just hang, hang tight for a minute, okay? We'll get your phone, we'll go from there.
At that point, the detective left the interrogation room, to get Malik's phone so he could call his lawyer. But Malik was not given his phone, In less than two minutes later, the detective came back in and sat down with a sigh.
DETECTIVE: Here's the deal, I'm just going to ask you flat out, because we're in the middle of this and this is something we could potentially resolve — do you want your lawyer here or do you want to just figure this out?
MALIK: I really just want to figure this out.
The detective administered Miranda warnings again and Malik agreed to speak to police. The detective then began to question Malik about the interaction he had with the victim, which Malik initially adamantly maintained was consensual. Eventually, after the detective repeatedly urged Malik to tell the truth and suggested that if Malik were to appear sorry, it may help his case, Malik then wrote an apology letter to the victim. And Malik was convicted.
HOW DO YOU RULE?
If you rule that Malik clearly asked for a lawyer anything Malik said or wrote while in the detective’s custody cannot be used against Malik. If you rule that Malik was not clear, Malik goes to jail. Make your choice (and let us know on social media):
MALIK GOES FREE (Clearly asked for a lawyer)
MALIK GOES TO JAIL (Did NOT clearly ask for a lawyer)
HOW DID THE COURT RULE?
Our highest state court, the New York State Court of Appeals, ruled that Malik’s questions to the detective and his demeanor only ”suggested a conditional interest in speaking with an attorney” and “only if it would not otherwise delay his clearly-expressed wish to speak to the police,” and, therefore, Malik did NOT clearly state that he wanted a lawyer while in custody.
There was one judge who disagreed with the court’s ruling who believed that Malik clearly asked for a lawyer. The judge pointed out that the detective repeatedly stated that he understood Malik to have requested counsel. And then asked, “Why doesn't the majority?”
Malik was sentenced to 7 years in prison followed by 10 years of post-release supervision.
Justice served? Let us know how you did.
Read the case here.