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Criminal Practice – Self-Incrimination – Pre- and Post-Miranda Statements – Murder & Armed Robbery – Scout

By: S.C. Lawyers Weekly staff//June 1, 2023

Criminal Practice – Self-Incrimination – Pre- and Post-Miranda Statements – Murder & Armed Robbery – Scout

By: S.C. Lawyers Weekly staff//June 1, 2023

Although defendant was not read his Miranda rights until half an hour into his questioning at a police station, since he was not under arrest and went to the station and agreed to answer questions voluntarily, he was not in custody when he spoke to a detective during the un-Mirandized portion of his interrogation.

We affirm defendant’s convictions for murder and armed robbery.

Defendant served as the scout for three convenience store robberies during which two store employees were killed. Defendant challenges the trial court’s admission of statements defendant made to a police detective before he received his Miranda warnings.

It is debatable whether a reasonable person would have believed himself to be in custody at the time the first statement was given; accordingly, the circuit court’s finding that defendant was not in custody should be upheld as it is supported by the record. Defendant was asked—not required—to ride to the substation with police officers for questioning; he was questioned in an office and did not ask to leave; he was offered creature comforts; and the initial pre-Miranda questioning lasted only about half an hour.

Nothing in the record contradicts the detective’s testimony that defendant voluntarily accompanied officers to the precinct and that had he asked to leave, officers would have let him go. Defendant chose to leave his job and go to his girlfriend’s house when he learned the police were there, and neither defendant nor his girlfriend was handcuffed during the ride. These circumstances support the circuit court’s finding that defendant was not in custody during the initial 30-minute portion of the interview.

It is true that the timing and setting as well as the personnel from the initial questioning on were exactly the same as in the post-Miranda round of questioning. Additionally, the police treated the second round of questioning as a continuation of the first; there was not even a quick break following the verbal Miranda warnings, and the line of questioning piggybacked on the initial inquiries.

However, the Missouri v. Siebert, 93 S.W.3d 700 (2002), factor addressing “the completeness and detail of the question[s] and answers in the first round of interrogation” is absent here. Defendant gave no pre-Miranda confession, and the detective did not seek one. When it became apparent defendant might make an admission of guilt, the detective stopped the interview and read him his rights.

It was only after he was given Miranda warnings that defendant admitted his involvement in the string of convenience store armed robberies. Significantly, there is no indication that once the interrogation became custodial, defendant’s statements were involuntary or that the conditions under which he made the statements were unconstitutionally coercive. The tone of the remainder of the interview is conversational, the whole interview lasted approximately an hour and a half, and defendant was neither threatened nor deprived of food, drink, or sleep. Notably, defendant told the officers he wanted to come forward earlier, but he was scared of one of the robbers and could not let anything happen to his family.

Evidence supports the circuit court’s finding that defendant’s statements were knowingly and voluntarily made.



(Geathers, J.) Where (1) defendant came home early from work to find his pregnant girlfriend in one of several unmarked police cars at the residence; (2) despite defendant’s cooperativeness, officers did not permit him to drive to the police station but instead required him and his girlfriend to ride in separate police cars; and (3) defendant and his girlfriend were taken to separate offices, a reasonable person in defendant’s position would not have felt free to leave. Moreover, during the first un-Mirandized half-hour of defendant’s interrogation, defendant admitted facts that showed he had access to a car used in the robberies, that he had no workplace alibi for the times of the robberies, and that he was on the premises of one of the robbed convenience stores shortly before the robbery occurred.

Given these circumstances, defendant’s first statement should have been excluded from evidence. Nonetheless, a new trial is not warranted because defendant’s statements after he was given the Miranda warnings constituted much more than a mere product of the first round of questioning.

State v. Daniels (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-032-23, 22 pp.) (Stephanie McDonald, J.) (John Geathers, J., concurring in result) Appealed from Horry County Circuit Court (Robert Hood, J.) Wanda Carter for appellant; Alan McCrory Wilson, Donald Zelenka, Melody Jane Brown, Anthony Mabry, Mark Reynolds Farthing and Jimmy Richardson for respondent. South Carolina Court of Appeals

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