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Arizona Appellate Court Discusses Miranda Rights in Recent Homicide Case

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion requiring the court to determine whether the defendant’s Miranda rights were violated when the police took a statement from the defendant while he was not in custody. Ultimately, the court concluded that Arizona criminal law permitted the officers’ actions, and that the statement was properly admitted into evidence at trial.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was a handyman who was working for a landlord. One day, the defendant and the landlord’s property manager were scheduled to meet up so that the defendant could give the property manager rent he had collected from tenants. During the meeting, which took place in a home, the defendant shot the property manager with a shotgun, killing him instantly.

Later that day, the defendant’s friend came over to the home, and the defendant showed his friend the body. The friend helped the defendant bury the body in the backyard. The defendant later sold two of the property manager’s rings to a jewelry store. The jewelry store owner later saw a picture of the victim wearing the rings, and provided them to detectives.

About two years after the incident, detectives visited the defendant in a convalescent home. The defendant admitted to working in the house where the victim had been killed, but denied being there on the day in question. Even when detectives presented the defendant’s phone records, indicating he was there on the day in question, the defendant still denied having been at the home with the property manager. When the detectives showed the defendant a picture of the property manager’s remains, the defendant left the interview.

In a pretrial motion to suppress, the defendant argued that his statements to detectives should be inadmissible at trial, because they were taken without him being provided his Miranda warnings. The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed.

On appeal, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to allow the defendant’s statement into evidence. The court explained that the defendant was not in custody at the time he was questioned and, although he asked to have a lawyer present during the interview “police may continue to question suspects who are not in custody, even though they invoke their right to remain silent, as long as the responses are voluntary and the person’s will has not been overborne.”

As a result of the court’s opinion, the denial of the defendant’s motion, as well as his conviction and sentence, were affirmed.

Have You Been Arrested after Providing a Statement to Police?

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime after giving a statement to police, your statement may be inadmissible at trial if law enforcement officers did not follow all necessary procedures. Attorney James E. Novak is a veteran criminal defense attorney with extensive experience litigating a wide range of pre-trial motions, including in those cases involving Arizona violent crimes and allegations of domestic violence. Through his strong pre-trial motions practice, Attorney Novak does everything he can to ensure that the landscape at trial is as favorable to his clients as possible. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Novak today, call 480-413-1499.

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