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United States v. Rogers - 659 F.3d 74 (1st Cir. 2011)

Rule:

If pre-warning questions occurred in circumstances not clearly custodial, without manifesting a preplanned interrogation, and reflecting no policy to diminish the Miranda safeguards, the test for admissibility will be the familiar one. The sufficiency of warnings given after casual questioning and response, and the adequacy of a suspect's subsequent agreement to talk, will be examined under the usual standard of voluntary and knowing waiver of rights, and no further curative action by the police will be required for the admissibility of the subsequent statements despite the suppression of the earlier ones. When, however, the police deliberately employ a sequence of unwarned questioning producing disclosures, followed by Miranda warnings, followed closely by similar questioning, the warnings will not be taken as sufficient without curative steps to demonstrate to a reasonable suspect that in practical terms he has a genuinely free choice to decline to speak in response to the subsequent questioning set to follow on the heels of his earlier responses. 

Facts:

Appellant-defendant Brian Rogers sold a personal computer to a buyer who found the computer contained child pornography. The buyer gave the material to the local police in Brunswick, Maine, who enlisted the help of the state's computer crime unit, and because Rogers was a non-commissioned Naval officer at the Brunswick Naval Air Station, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) was also notified. After a search of his house and interrogation there and at the Brunswick police station by local, state, and federal investigators, defendant Rogers was charged with unlawful possession of child pornography under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252A(a)(5)(B)2256(8)(A). He pleaded guilty, though reserving the right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to suppress his statements as having been taken in violation of Miranda v. Arizona. The district court concluded that Rogers was not in custody at the house or at the station, Miranda therefore being inapplicable. Rogers sought review.

Issue:

Did the questioning at the defendant's house, without warning of rights violate Miranda, particularly where the defendant was a member of the military and his commanding officer had ordered him to return to his home?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The United States Court of Appeals held that the questioning at the house without warning of rights violated Miranda. Accordingly, the Court remanded for further consideration of the sufficiency of any curative action in support of the subsequent Miranda warnings, as required by Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600, 124 S. Ct. 2601, 159 L. Ed. 2d 643 (2004). The Court determined that Rogers was in custody at the house under conditions that required the Miranda warnings, the want of which compelled suppression of the statements given there. The Court determined that the most significant element in analyzing the situation was that the military had made certain that defendant did not walk into it voluntarily, or confront the police with free choice to be where he was. Rogers’ commander had ordered defendant to return to his home. The Court explained that whenever a member of the services is questioned in circumstances mandated by a superior's order, he is in the situation that Miranda was meant to address, where the line between voluntary and involuntary response is at least so blurred the the Fifth Amendment guarantee is in jeopardy.

Upon remand, the trial court is required to determine whether the warnings given at the police station could be effective under the circumstances.

As for the applicable standard of review, the Court explained that its review of the mixed questions of fact and law is de novo, subject to clear error review of purely fact issues. The Court may also accord some deference to the district court's application of law to particular facts.

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