Thursday, April 4, 2013

'State v. Edler' argument preview

State v. Edler (2011AP2916-CR ) is scheduled for argument before the Wisconsin Supreme Court April 10, 2013 1:30 p.m. The case is before the court on certification from the Court of Appeals. The synopsis states:
This certification from the District II Court of Appeals examines an arson suspect's right to counsel and whether Wisconsin law affords a different level of protection under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966) warnings than has developed under federal case law.

More specifically, the Court of Appeals asks the Wisconsin Supreme Court:

1.Should Wisconsin follow Maryland v. Shatzer, ___ U.S. ___, 130 S. Ct. 1213 (2010) [pdf], which held that the Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981) prohibition against seeking a waiver of the Miranda warnings and reinitiating police interrogation no longer applies when there has been a 14-day break in custody, or does the Wisconsin Constitution provide a greater level of protection to individuals suspected of committing a crime?
2.When the defendant asked, in the squad car on the way to the second interrogation, 'Can my attorney be present for this?', did he unambiguously invoke his right to counsel?
3.If the statement set forth in the second issue is declared to be ambiguous, does it make a difference whether the ambiguous statement was made before or after Miranda warnings were given?

Some background: In early 2011, the defendant, Andrew Edler, was 17 years old and one of the newest firefighters in the Waldo Fire Department. In January and March 2011, two small arson fires occurred in the area, and Edler fell under suspicion because he arrived so quickly at the scene of those two fires. On March 30, while interrogating Edler about an unrelated burglary case, Detective Gerald Urban began asking Edler about the arsons and his possible involvement. Shortly after the subject of the arsons came up, Edler said, 'From this point on, I'd like a lawyer here.'

Urban immediately ceased questioning. Edler was booked and jailed pending appearance on criminal charges in the burglary case. Soon after his initial appearance in that case on April 1, 2011, Edler was released on bond, and a public defender was appointed as his lawyer on April 4, 2011.

Later in April, an acquaintance of Edler agreed to Urban's request to secretly record a conversation with Edler about the arsons. That conversation was recorded on April 18, 2011. On April 20, Edler was arrested on the arson charges at his family home. Edler's father asked what Edler was being accused of, and Urban told him about the arson charges, emphasizing that Edler's cooperation in the investigation was important.

As Edler sat in the squad car, Edler's father admonished him to cooperate with the investigators and tell the truth. On the ride to the station, Urban sat beside Edler in the back seat of the squad and advised him continually that he should take his father's advice, cooperate, tell the truth, and help himself out. At some point during the ride, Edler asked Urban, 'can my attorney be present for this?' and Urban answered, 'yes he can.'

Upon arrival at the sheriff's department, Edler was placed in an interview room to wait for questioning. He was crying and having some difficulty breathing as Urban entered and began telling him about the strong case the sheriff's department had developed against him. Urban emphasized that the evidence already was sufficient for convictions.

Urban then began to read Edler the Miranda warnings. When he read, 'you have the right to consult with a lawyer before questioning and to have a lawyer present with you during questioning,' Edler asked '…if I request a lawyer does that mean you still have to bring me into custody and I have to go sit in the jail?' Urban explained that the presence of a lawyer would have no effect on the fact that Edler was now in custody. Urban then reread all of the Miranda rights from the beginning. At the end, when Urban asked, 'realizing that you have these rights, are you now willing to answer questions?' Edler answered affirmatively. In the subsequent interrogation, Edler admitted involvement in the arsons.

Edler moved for suppression of the admissions made during the April 20 interrogation at the sheriff's department, arguing that his Fifth Amendment right to counsel had been violated. The circuit court held that Edler's statement in the car ('Can my lawyer be present for this?') was an unequivocal invocation of his right to counsel and suppressed statements that Edler made thereafter.

The state appealed. It argued that because there had been more than a 14-day break in custody from Edler's initial request for counsel on March 30, the detective was free, pursuant to Shatzer, to approach Edler, read him his Miranda rights, and ask if he was now willing to talk with the detective about the arsons. The state further argued that Edler's utterance in the car on the way to the sheriff's department ('Can my lawyer be present for this?') was a question and not an unequivocal invocation of his right to counsel.

Edler argued in response that the interrogation on April 20 was barred by both his March 30 and April 20 requests for counsel. He claimed that Shatzer did not apply to the facts of his case and that, in any event, the Wisconsin constitution should provide broader protections for accused individuals in line with Justice Stevens' dissent in Shatzer. He also argued that his statement in the squad car was a legally sufficient invocation of his right to counsel, such that the detective was obligated to cease any further interrogation in the absence of Edler's attorney. From Sheboygan County.