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United States of America v. Alonzo Lamar Johnson

April 4, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ALONZO LAMAR JOHNSON



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conti, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Defendant Alonzo Lamar Johnson ("defendant" or "Johnson") filed a Motion to Suppress Statement (ECF No. 598), alleging that the statements he made while in custody should be suppressed because they were made in violation of United States v. Miranda, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). Specifically, defendant argues that because he was in custody and being interrogated by an FBI agent about this case, the Miranda warnings were due. The court disagrees because the interrogation had not yet began at the time he made the statements. For the reasons explained below, the motion to suppress the statements is denied.

At the December 21, 2011 hearing, the court ordered the parties to file proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law within ten days of the filing of the transcript. Defendant filed his findings of fact and conclusions of law at ECF No. 734. The government filed its findings at ECF No. 751.

At issue here is whether statements made by Johnson at the time he was in custody should be suppressed because he had not been mirandized when these statements were made.*fn1

Johnson argues that FBI Special Agent Daniel Booker ("Agent Booker") in essence "interrogated" him about the case without having mirandized him first. The government argues that Agent Booker did not "interrogate" him because Agent Booker was explaining to Johnson why he had been arrested and was asking routine booking questions when defendant, voluntarily, made the statements in issue. These statements, the government asserts, were not made in response to any questions posed by the agent.

To determine whether the questions posed or conduct by the agent constituted "interrogation" or its functional equivalent, courts apply the following standard:

The Fifth Amendment prohibits the government from using incriminating statements made by the defendant unless it employs procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966). This protection only applies to statements made when the defendant is both in custody and subject to interrogation. Id. Interrogation refers to express questioning as well as its functional equivalent, i.e., "any words or actions on the part of the police . . . that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect." Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 301 (1980). If the individual indicates his wish to remain silent, he is invoking his right to exercise his Fifth Amendment privilege and the interrogation must cease. Miranda, 384 U.S. at 473--74. But "[a]ny statement given freely and voluntarily without any compelling influences is . . . admissible in evidence." Id. at 478.

United States v. Martinez, No. 11-1630, 2012 WL 375832, at *2 (3d Cir. Feb. 7, 2012).

In United States v. Young, No. 04-cr-716, 2005 WL 2789185 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 25, 2005), the district court noted:

Miranda does not imply "that all statements obtained by the police after a person has been taken into custody are to be considered the product of interrogation." Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 299, 100 S.Ct. 1682, 64 L.Ed.2d 297 (1980). "Any statement given freely and voluntarily without any compelling influences is ... admissible." Miranda, 348 U.S. at 478. The bounds of interrogation are delineated by a "functional equivalence" test:

[T]he term 'interrogation' under Miranda refers not only to express questioning, but also to any words or actions on the part of the police (other than those normally attendant to arrest and custody) that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response.

Innis 446 U.S. at 301. . . . . . .

Where no interrogation takes place, Defendant's oral statements are admissible. See McGowan v. Miller 109 F.3d 1168, (7th Cir.1997) (denying habeas relief where state court found defendant's "incriminating statements came only after he initiated a conversation with" police, asking "What specifically are you charging me with?"); United States v. Spurlock, No. 96-4739, 1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 23530, at *3-4 (4th Cir. Sept. 5, 1997) (suspect who inquired as to "what law he had violated," and made incriminating statements after being informed by police of the reason for his arrest, could not suppress "statements [that] were uncoerced and not the result of any subtle interrogation"); [United States v. Taylor, 985 F.2d 3, 6-8 (1st Cir. 1993)] (finding no interrogation where suspect asked "Why is this happening to me?" and made incriminating remarks after police identified his alleged crime; holding otherwise "would ... propound a rule that police officers may not answer direct questions, even in the most cursory and responsive manner); [United ...


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