Judge Denies Defense Objection Over Accused’s Uncertainty of Miranda Rights

By Cynthia Hoang-Duong

WOODLAND, CA – Before the jury in a murder case was brought into Yolo County Superior Court here late last week, Judge Peter M. Williams denied a Miranda Rights objection by the defense after reviewing a video statement by law enforcement questioning the accused, who faces two murder charges.

The case will go to the jury Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Deputy Public Defender Richard Van Zandt earlier this week lost a foundation objection earlier during the prosecution’s direct examination of a West Sacramento Department police officer.

When Deputy District Attorney Caryn C. Warren asked the officer—currently assigned as a detective for the investigation unit—about his interview with the accused, the DPD objected, claiming the DDA did not lay the foundation that the officer had read the accused his Miranda rights.

The judge overruled the objection, prompting the DPD to request a sidebar with the judge.

While the court was on a break, Judge Williams addressed the sidebar discussion of the objection on the record. DPD Van Zandt restated foundation had not been laid and that the officer had not witnessed nor read the Miranda advisement. He moved to strike the particular piece of the officer’s testimony from the record.

When the judge reiterated that he overruled the objection, the DPD added that “the objection is pursuant to Miranda, [the accused’s] 5th and 14th U.S. Constitutional rights.”

DDA Warren argued a police detective had read the accused his Miranda rights and when two other detectives arrived, they repeated the Miranda advisement and the accused replied he understood it.

Thursday morning, Judge Williams addressed the Miranda issue again because he reviewed the video statement of the accused’s questioning from the court.

The DPD considered requesting a 402 admissibility of evidence hearing regarding the Miranda issue. However, the judge said the video showed the accused waiving his Miranda rights at the beginning of the interview and a second detective reminded him of his rights.

“The video makes it clear he was Mirandized and I don’t think any reasonable fact finder [would] conclude otherwise,” said the judge.

Judge Williams offered the DPD the opportunity to challenge the Miranda he saw in a brief 402 hearing.

Van Zandt submitted that while the evidence showed the accused was informed of his Miranda rights, he remained doubtful of whether the accused understood them, arguing, “The evidence shows that he was read his Miranda rights. The only question would be: did he understand them? Was there a valid waiver?”

However, the judge responded that it was unlikely that the court could confirm the accused’s understanding without putting him on the stand during a 402 hearing, but the DPD clarified that waivers are a legal issue and thus, did not require the accused’s testimony.

Judge Williams acknowledged the client possessed the due process right to have the Miranda issue hearing. However, he considered the present discussion to constitute a hearing.

Upon the DPD’s agreement, the judge repeated his overruling of the objection on Tuesday and concluded the accused was Mirandized and the statement was properly admitted to the jury.

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  1. Michele Chadwick

    Determining the validity of the accused’s understanding of their Miranda rights is a difficult task but as long as there is no language limit the accused should accept the responsibility of their waiving. However, this allows for authority to pressure and coerce some accused.

  2. Sophia Barberini

    It’s also important to acknowledge, when determining the validity of the accused waiving their rights, that these rights are often waived during distressing circumstances which can result in the accused feeling pressured or overwhelmed, limiting their ability to understand that they are waiving their rights. While determining somebody’s understanding of their Miranda rights may prove difficult, it should not be brushed over, as a decision to waive rights without fully understanding them can have an extremely harmful impact on the future of someone’s case.

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