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A Doyle violation involves more than simply referring to a defendant's post-Miranda silence. A prosecutor must specifically inquire about or argue using a defendant's exercise of his rights in a context that would impeach a defendant's exculpatory explanation of his conduct. The key is the framing of a question or a prosecutor's comment that demands an explanation from the defendant and raises the inference that silence equals guilt. The mere mention of a defendant's exercise of his rights does not automatically establish a violation. Rather, it is the prosecutor's exploitation of a defendant's exercise of his right to silence which is prohibited.
Robert Prickett’s credit card was unlawfully used. In the course of the investigation, the police officer gathered evidence showing that defendant Karen Maas was working at the time of the charges. The police officer went to defendant’s home to interview her. The officer explained the evidence he had collected, advised defendant of her Miranda rights, and asked if she wanted to talk to him. Defendant responded, “why, you have everything anyway? No, I don't want to talk to you." The officer left defendant’s home, making no further attempt to interview her. The State then charged defendant with Falsely Signing Evidence of a Credit Card Transaction, in violation of Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-506.1(4) (1999); Unlawful Use of a Financial Card, in violation of Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-506.2(1) (1999); and Property Obtained by Unlawful Financial Transaction Card Conduct, in violation of Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-506.4 (1999). At trial, the officer testified about his verbal exchange with defendant, which included defendant’s invocation of her Miranda right to silence. Defense counsel objected to the testimony, and attempted to exclude the entire exchange. The trial judge had permitted the question, intending only to allow the comment before defendant's invocation of rights. Defendant was convicted. On appeal, she argued that the prosecution's disclosure of her invocation of her Miranda rights was prejudicial error and denied her a fair trial in violation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Doyle v. Ohio, 426 U.S. 610, 96 S. Ct. 2240, 49 L. Ed. 2d 91 (1976).
Pursuant to the standards laid down in Doyle, did the prosecution improperly use defendant’s invocation of her right to silence against her at trial, thereby violating her due process rights?
The court held that no Doyle violation had occurred because the testimony was inadvertent and was not significant enough. The prosecution did not attempt to cast the forbidden inference that defendant’s silence equaled guilt, nor did it use the invocation of her right to silence to impeach her. According to the court, a Doyle violation involved more than simply referring to a defendant's post-Miranda silence. A prosecutor must specifically inquire about or argue using a defendant's exercise of her rights in a context that would impeach a defendant's exculpatory explanation of her conduct. The mere mention of a defendant's exercise of her rights would not automatically establish a violation. Thus, in this case, there was no violation of defendant's due process rights, and her conviction was affirmed.