Absence of Miranda Warning May Lead to Suppressed Statements in Kayak Murder Trial

A New York woman was not read her Miranda rights prior to a 45 minute, unrecorded interview with police after her husband’s kayak capsized in the Hudson river, resulting in his death.  A police investigator claims that Angelika Graswald told him that she took her fiance’s paddle after he capsized and held it while he begged her to call 911.  Graswald was not read her Miranda rights prior to the 45 minute unrecorded interrogation she had with detectives.  Police claim that during the interview, Graswald admitted that there was a plug in her fiance’s kayak and that she took it out.  Police claim that Graswald became a suspect only after that meeting.  In Massachusetts, the SJC Court has held that it prefers interrogation to be recorded and that a failure to record an interrogation can be held against the Commonwealth in determining whether the statements were voluntarily made.  The lack of a recording should be held against the State in determining whether it satisfies its burden of showing a valid waiver of Miranda.

The Miranda warning is a right to silence warning given by police to a criminal suspect in police custody before they are interrogated to preserve the admissibility of their statements against them in criminal proceedings.  Miranda is part of a preventive criminal procedure rule that law enforcement are required to administer to protect an individual who is in custody and subject to direct questioning or its functional equivalent from a violation of his or her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.  The admission of an elicited incriminating statement by a suspect not informed of these rights violates the Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination, and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

An officer is free to ask questions before an arrest, but must inform the suspect that the questioning is voluntary and that she is free to leave at any time.  If this information is unknown to suspect, then the statements are not admissible in court.  In the case of Graswald, she was questioned alone on the island from which she was rescued.  This is hardly an environment that would make someone with no experience with the police feel free to walk away from.  Graswald said that police kept asking her the same questions until she was at her breaking point. She says that she told them what they wanted so the interview would end. These statements by Graswald show that she did not feel free to leave during the questioning, and therefore these statements should be inadmissible.

Read other information about Miranda violations on my blog.

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