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Law School Case Brief

State v. Barker - 2016-Ohio-2708, 149 Ohio St. 3d 1, 73 N.E.3d 365


A legislature may not supersede the constitutional rule announced in Miranda. Therefore, R.C. 2933.81(B) cannot lessen the protections announced in Miranda by removing the State's burden of proving a suspect's knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of rights prior to making a statement during a custodial interrogation. Although Miranda allows for alternative legislative solutions that are at least as effective in apprising accused persons of their right and in assuring a continuous opportunity to exercise it, the act of recording a suspect's custodial statement does nothing to appraise a suspect of, or to protect the suspect's opportunity to exercise, his Fifth Amendment rights. While a recording might identify police coercion or its absence, nothing about the fact of recording ensures that a suspect understands his rights and knowingly and intelligently waives them. In short, applying R.C. 2933.81(B) to the question of a suspect's waiver of Miranda rights would impermissibly lower the State's burden of demonstrating a valid waiver of those rights.


Defendant Tyshawn Barker was a 15-year-old suspect in the separate shootings of two individuals. Cincinnati Police Detectives Kurt Ballman and Terry McGuffey questioned Barker and read his Miranda rights. Barker said that he understood what the detective had read, and he signed the notification-of-rights form below the preprinted statement, "I understand my rights." The form did not indicate that Barker was waiving his rights, nor did the detectives tell Barker that signing the form constituted a waiver.  The detectives continued their interrogation without inquiring whether Barker wanted to continue or wanted to speak with an attorney, and Barker implicated himself in the shootings of Englemon and Conn. Barker was charged as a juvenile with aggravated murder and murder in relation to the deaths of Englemon and Conn. The juvenile court found probable cause to believe that Barker had committed the alleged offenses and ordered an amenability evaluation. Dr. Paul Deardorff evaluated Barker's mental health and filed a report with the juvenile court. Dr. Deardorff stated that Barker might suffer from a learning disability. Upon consideration of Dr. Deardorff's report and the evidence presented at the probable-cause hearing, the juvenile court relinquished jurisdiction and bound Barker over to the common pleas court. The Hamilton County Grand Jury indicted Barker on four counts of aggravated murder with firearm specifications and specifications that Barker, Washington, and Nixson purposefully killed Englemon and Conn to prevent their testimony in other criminal proceedings. Barker moved to suppress the statements he made during his custodial interrogation, arguing that he did not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive his Miranda rights and that his statements were not voluntary. The trial court denied Barker's motion to suppress without mentioning either R.C. 2933.81(B) or the presumption of voluntariness. Although the trial court did not expressly find that Barker knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights, it found that Barker voluntarily made statements to the police after being properly advised of, and with an understanding of, his rights. The First District Court of Appeals affirmed Barker's convictions. 


In this case involving a custodial police interrogation of a juvenile suspect, did the appellate court err in finding that the statutory presumption of voluntariness created by R.C. 2933.81(B) based on an electronically recorded interrogation applied to defendant Barker?




The Supreme Court of Ohio reversed the judgment. The appellate court erred by finding that the statutory presumption of voluntariness created by R.C. 2933.81(B), based on an electronically recorded interrogation, applied to defendant Barker because the statute did not affect the analysis of whether a suspect knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights prior to making a statement to the police. As applied to juveniles, that presumption was unconstitutional. A totality of the circumstances analysis would necessarily have included consideration of factors such as Barker’s age, the late-night time of the interrogation, the absence of a parent or guardian, his "borderline intelligence" and third-grade reading level, his statement that he was not familiar with Miranda rights other than having heard of them from television, and his apparent confusion about what an attorney was.

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