Bobby v. Dixon: The Supreme Court Opens the New Term by Re-visiting Some Old Rules Concerning Interrogations

   By Jay Shapiro, Partner Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP

In one of its first decisions of the new Term, the Supreme Court seized the opportunity to restate and clarify and restate three important rules in interrogation cases. Bobby v. Dixon, a decision issued on November 7, 2011, involved a state murder case from Ohio. The Supreme Court in its per curium reversal of a Sixth Circuit ruling that granted the petitioner habeas corpus relief in Dixon v. Houk, [the Sixth's Circuit's enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers] succinctly described the gruesome facts of the crime. The victim, Chris Hammer, was murdered by his two roommates, Archie Dixon and Tim Hoffner, in order to steal his car. They beat Hammer, tied him up and then buried him alive. "Dixon then used Hammer's birth certificate and social security card to obtain a state identification card in Hammer's name. After using that identification card to establish ownership of Hammer's car, Dixon sold the vehicle for $2,800."

Hammer's mother reported him missing and suspicion fell upon the roommates. Dixon's first interaction with the police was relatively uneventful. He was at the local police station attending to an unrelated matter (his car had been impounded as a result of tickets) when a detective attempted to question him. Dixon was advised of his Miranda rights and he declined to answer any questions without counsel. Five days later Dixon was arrested when the police found that he had forged Hammer's signature on a check he received when he sold the victim's car. This time, he was not advised of his Miranda rights and this was the result of a strategy decision by the police who were concerned that reading the rights would result in Dixon not speaking to them. Dixon admitted to signing the name but denied that it was a forgery, claiming that Hammer had given him permission to do so. When he was asked about Hammer's whereabouts he offered a story that Hammer may have left the state.

About the Author:

Jay Shapiro is a partner in the New York office of White & Williams LLP. Jay has more than 30 years experience concentrating his practice in litigation matters. He began his legal career as a prosecutor in the Bronx County District Attorney's Office (1980-1988) and later joined the King's County District Attorney's Office (1990-2002) where he became the Deputy District Attorney in charge of the Rackets Division before going into private practice. Mr. Shapiro has tried more than thirty-five cases in state and federal court. In private practice, he has handled litigation involving insurance fraud, white collar crime and Lanham Act (trademark) violations.

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