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In re S.W.

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

September 17, 2015

IN RE S.W., APPELLANT

Argued September 26, 2014

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (DEL-155-12). (Hon. Milton C. Lee, Jr., Trial Judge).

Chris Kemmitt, Public Defender Service, with whom James Klein, Jaclyn Frankfurt, and Monica Douglas, Public Defender Service, were on the brief, for appellant.

John W. Donavan, Assistant Attorney General, with whom Irvin B. Nathan, Attorney General at the time the brief was filed, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, Rosalyn Calbert Groce, Deputy Solicitor General, and Janice Sheppard, Assistant Attorney General, were on the brief, for the government.

Before BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY and EASTERLY, Associate Judges, and EPSTEIN, Associate Judge of the Superior Court.[1] OPINION by Associate Judge BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY. Opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part by Associate Judge EASTERLY at page 32. Opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part by Associate Judge EPSTEIN at page 50.

OPINION

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Blackburne-Rigsby, Associate Judge:

This case presents a " rare" instance in which we conclude that " a self-incriminating statement was 'compelled' despite the fact that the law enforcement authorities adhered to the dictates of Miranda [ v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 467, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966).]" Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428, 444, 120 S.Ct. 2326, 147 L.Ed.2d 405 (2000). Specifically, we conclude that a juvenile's confession during custodial interrogation was involuntary, in spite of an effectively delivered Miranda warning and a knowing and intelligent waiver of Miranda rights, and we reverse the trial court's adjudication of delinquency.[2]

Following a consolidated suppression hearing and bench trial, appellant S.W., a fifteen-year-old juvenile, was adjudicated delinquent on four counts: (1) carjacking, (2) attempted unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, (3) unlawful entry of a motor vehicle, and (4) threats to do bodily harm.[3] On appeal, appellant challenges the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress

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statements that he made during post-arrest interrogation. Appellant's principal argument is that the interrogating detective's pre- Miranda remarks rendered the subsequent Miranda warning ineffective as a matter of law and, consequently, that his confession must be suppressed. Alternatively, appellant argues that the detective's remarks prevented him from making a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver.

We hold that the interrogating detective delivered an effective Miranda warning and that appellant made a knowing and intelligent waiver of his Miranda rights, but that he did not do so voluntarily. In so holding, we avoid a per se rule that either invalidates a Miranda warning as a matter of law when law enforcement officials make pre- Miranda warning remarks, or that validates a Miranda warning as a matter of law when law enforcement officials read the warning verbatim from a waiver card.[4] We reinforce the necessity of looking holistically at every custodial interrogation in reaching a conclusion specific to the facts presented. No " talismanic incantation" is necessary to satisfy Miranda. Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600, 611, 124 S.Ct. 2601, 159 L.Ed.2d 643 (2004) (citation omitted). Nor will " mere recitation of the litany [of rights]" suffice in every circumstance. Id. Rather, our inquiry is case-specific, asking " whether the warnings reasonably convey to a suspect his [or her] rights as required by Miranda." Id. (internal quotation marks, citation, and alterations omitted).

I. Factual Background

A. The Incident

At approximately 10:00 a.m. on January 22, 2012, Tiffany Dougall was pumping gas into her car at a gas station on the corner of Benning Road and East Capitol Street, Northeast, Washington, D.C. She had left the driver-side door ajar with the keys in the ignition. Appellant approached Ms. Dougall's car, sat in the driver seat, and attempted to start the car. As appellant tried to close the car door, Ms. Dougall pulled the door open and retrieved her keys, thwarting appellant's attempt. Appellant exited the car and Ms. Dougall called him a " stupid a--[expletive]," to which he responded: " I should have shanked you. That's what we do around here." Appellant then ran across the street and entered a metro station. Within approximately twenty minutes, officers of the Metropolitan Police Department (" MPD" ) arrested appellant and brought him back to the scene where Ms. Dougall identified him.

B. The Interview

MPD Detective Howard Howland questioned appellant at the MPD Juvenile Processing Center in a video-recorded session that began just before midnight and lasted approximately eighteen minutes. Appellant's right foot was cuffed to the floor of the interview room, but his hands remained free. Before issuing a Miranda warning, Detective Howland introduced himself and asked appellant if he knew why he was under arrest.[5] When appellant did not respond, Detective Howland explained:

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I know you know why you're up here, so I ain't gonna play the 'I don't know' crap, all right? I'm gonna give you an opportunity to give your version of what happened today, because . . . I stand between you and the lions out there. . . . [W]e have a lot of things going on out there, and they're gonna try and say that you did it all. Okay? And I think what happened today was just a one-time thing. But before I came out here everybody said . . . you did a whole bunch of stuff, but in order for us to have a conversation, I have to read you your rights and you have to waive ...

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