Criminal Justice

Suspect who waived right to remain silent need not be told about waiting lawyer, Mich. supremes say


A defendant who waives his right to remain silent and makes incriminating statements doesn’t have to be told a lawyer is waiting to speak with him, the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled.

The decision (PDF) on Monday overruled a 1996 Michigan Supreme Court decision that required police to promptly inform a suspect facing custodial interrogation when a lawyer is available and seeking to speak with the suspect. The 1996 opinion was People v. Bender. The Livingston Daily Press & Argus and the Associated Press have stories.

The decision on Monday, People v. Tanner, reverses a trial judge’s suppression of incriminating statements made by George Tanner, who was arrested for an alleged murder and informed of his Miranda rights. Tanner asked to see a lawyer, then told a psychologist the next day that he had to get something off his chest, according to the opinion. When an administrator questioned Tanner about the statement, Tanner asked for a lawyer. The administrator said it was not his role to get an attorney, but he could call police officers, and Tanner said that would be fine. Police and a lawyer were both dispatched to the jail.

The lawyer, who was unclear why he was called, waited in the lobby while police officers met with the defendant to determine his intentions, the opinion says. Tanner was again read his Miranda rights, which Tanner waived. He did not ask for a lawyer and was not informed a lawyer was waiting in the lobby.

The state supreme court said the interrogation met Fifth Amendment standards. The 1996 Bender decision was wrongly decided, the court concluded in Tanner, because the Bender court “engaged in an unfounded creation” of state constitutional rights.

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