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UNITED STATES v. VASQUEZ

June 13, 1995

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
VIRGILIO SOTO VASQUEZ a/k/a "CHICO," Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES F. MCCLURE, JR.

 June 13, 1995

 BACKGROUND :

 On September 15, 1994, a grand jury sitting in the Middle District of Pennsylvania returned a two-count indictment charging defendant Virgilio Soto Vasquez with first-degree murder and possession of a prohibited object. The indictment relates to a stabbing incident at the United States Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Union County, Pennsylvania, on March 19, 1991. A jury was selected June 5, 1995, and the case currently is being presented to the jury.

 Before the court is a motion by Vasquez to exclude the testimony of Special Agent Carlyle R. Thompson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation related to a statement given by Vasquez on the day of the stabbing.

 DISCUSSION:

 I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

 It is by now axiomatic that a defendant is entitled to be informed of certain, fundamental rights prior to custodial interrogation by law enforcement officials. These rights include the right to remain silent, that anything said can and will be used in court, that the defendant has the right to have a lawyer present during questioning, and that a lawyer will be appointed by the court if the defendant cannot afford one. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 467-473, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1966). These rights must be voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waived prior to further questioning, with the burden on the government to demonstrate a valid waiver. 384 U.S. at 475.

 With these principles in mind, we turn to the events in question.

 II. FINDINGS OF FACT

 1. On March 19, 1991, Abraham Reyes, then an inmate at USP-Lewisburg, was stabbed during the evening meal, while seated at a table in the penitentiary dining facility.

 2. The stabbing occurred between 5:15 and 5:30 p.m., and Reyes died as a result of his wounds.

 3. Immediately following the stabbing, Corrections Officer Kenneth A. Long went to the area, reacting to the ensuing commotion among the inmates.

 4. Upon arriving at the scene, C.O. Long used his portable radio to call for assistance from other officers.

 5. C.O. Long also noticed the defendant, Virgilio Soto Vasquez, acting in what he considered to be a suspicious manner.

 6. Based upon his observation, C.O. Long directed another officer to take Vasquez into custody.

 7. Vasquez was taken into custody initially by Lieutenant Stephen Dollar, who placed handcuffs on Vasquez and escorted him from the dining facility.

 8. Vasquez was taken into a common area near the front of the prison known as the "Red Top," where custody of Vasquez was turned over to Corrections Officer Steven W. Bilger, while Lt. Dollar took custody of a weapon found at the scene of the stabbing.

 9. Vasquez was escorted to the Special Housing Unit (SHU) by C.O. Bilger and Corrections Officer Raymond Geiswite.

 10. While being escorted from the dining hall, Vasquez tried to make statements to the officers to the effect that another inmate being taken into custody had nothing to do with the stabbing.

 11. In response to these statements, Vasquez was told repeatedly by corrections officers that he had the right to remain silent.

 12. Staff escorting Vasquez to SHU did not ask questions or otherwise act in a manner designed to elicit these statements.

 13. Upon arrival at SHU, C.O. Geiswite read the Miranda warnings to Vasquez from a card which he carried regularly in his wallet for such occasions.

 14. The warnings read by C.O. Geiswite were substantially the same as those he currently carries, with the exception that the phrase "can and will be used against you ..." now appears as "could be used against you..."

 15. When C.O. Geiswite finished reading Vasquez his Miranda rights, he asked if Vasquez understood.

 16. Vasquez responded substantially as follows: "Of course, I know my rights."

 17. C.O. Geiswite then informed Vasquez that an investigator would arrive later to talk to Vasquez.

 19. No further discussion took place between Vasquez and C.O. Geiswite, and the latter left SHU to escort Reyes to the hospital.

 20. Following the stabbing, Special Agent Carlyle R. Thompson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation was contacted by staff at USP-Lewisburg concerning the incident.

 21. S.A. Thompson's regular duties in March of 1991 did not include investigations at USP-Lewisburg, but no other agent in the district was available.

 22. S.A. Thompson travelled to USP-Lewisburg, and was informed that a total of three inmates were being held in SHU as a result of the stabbing.

 23. S.A. Thompson interviewed Vasquez, with Special Investigative Agent Nelson Aponte of ...


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