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United States v. Whitfield

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 8, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
ROBERT LAMAR WHITFIELD

MEMORANDUM

JUAN R. SNCHEZ, District Judge.

Defendant Robert Lamar Whitfield asks this Court to suppress a statement he made to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) Special Agent John Bowman following his arrest on July 18, 2012. In his motion to suppress, Whitfield asserts he did not receive adequate Miranda warnings[1] prior to his interrogation, and denies having made a voluntary, knowing, and intelligent waiver of his Miranda rights. In particular, Whitfield contends law enforcement personnel failed to honor his request to meet with a lawyer prior to being interrogated and maintains his statement was "the product of an overborne will, " "the result of implied threats, cajolery and coercion, " and "the product of delay, deception and improper subterfuge on the part of the government agents." Def.'s Omnibus Mot. 14. Following a hearing on April 19, 2013, at which Special Agent Bowman was the sole witness, and for the reasons set forth below, Whitfield's motion will be denied.

FACTS[2]

Whitfield was arrested shortly before 9:00 a.m. on July 18, 2012. Sometime after his arrest, Whitfield was transported to the ATF office, where he was eventually placed in an interview room wearing handcuffs. At approximately 11:28 a.m., Special Agent Bowman, [3] who was assigned to interview Whitfield, entered the room and advised Whitfield of the charges against him. Bowman also advised Whitfield that if he wanted to continue to talk to Bomwan, he would first have to waive his Miranda right. Bowman did not have a gun on his person during the interview. Whitfield was alert and attentive during the encounter.

Because Whitfield agreed to speak with Bowman, Bowman proceeded to administer Miranda warnings to Whitfield. Whitfield agreed to waive his rights, signing a pre-printed "Advice of Rights and Waiver" form, which included the following "Statement of Rights":

§ You have the right to remain silent.
§ Anything you say can be used against you in court.
§ You have the right to talk to a lawyer before we ask you any questions and to have a lawyer with you during questioning.
§ If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you if you wish before any questioning begins. § If you decide to answer any questions now without a lawyer present, you have the right to stop answering at any time.

Gov't Ex. 1. Whitfield signed under the "Waiver" portion of the form, which provides:

I have read this statement of my rights or it has been read to me, and I understand these rights. At this time I am willing to answer questions without a lawyer present. No promises or threats have been made to me, and no pressure or force of any kind has been used against me.

Id. Bowman also signed the form.[4]

After Whitfield waived his rights, Special Agent Bowman spoke with him briefly regarding the morning's events and then proceeded to document Whitfield's statement in question and answer format. The written statement is a verbatim recitation of the questions Bowman asked Whitfield and the answers Whitfield gave. After Bowman recorded the questions and answers, he went back through the statement line by line with Whitfield to make sure it was accurate, as is his practice. As part of this review process, Whitfield wrote his initials next to each answer in the statement, affirming the information was accurate. Whitfield also signed each page of the statement.

The second page of Whitfield's statement includes the question, "Robert, has anyone promised you anything or made any threats to [you] about cooperating?" followed by the answer, "no, I want to be the first one to cooperate." Id., Aff. at 2. The word "no" in Whitfield's answer is preceded by the word "yes" (or, at least, the letters "y" and "e"), which has been scribbled out. Both Whitfield's and Bowman's initials appear above the scribbled-out letters. Bowman explained the letters are scribbled out because he made a mistake in recording Whitfield's answer to his question. Although Whitfield responded in the negative, Bowman started to write "yes, " but then corrected his error. Both Bowman and Whitfield initialed the correction. Whitfield never stated anyone had promised him anything or ...


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