Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hernandez v. Holland (9th Cir. - April 24, 2014)

One of the great things about reading appellate opinions is that you often see things you've never, ever seen before.

Like in this one.

I've read plenty of cases involving custodial (as well as non-custodial) interrogations.  There are legions of opinions that involve defendants making incriminating statements to the police.

But I've never seen a situation like the one here:  where the defendant allegedly makes an incriminating statement to the bailiff at his trial.

Probably because most defendants have the good sense not to do so.  What's next?  Volunteering some incriminating information directly to the prosecutor?

As a result, on habeas, the Ninth Circuit has do deal with whether or not the statements to the bailiff here were the result of "custodial" interrogation.  It holds that they weren't.

It's an interesting situation.  There's definitely a real potential for abuse if you allow bailiffs to initiate conversations with defendants during their trial -- as the bailiff here admits he did -- and then testify about what the defendant says in response.  At the same time, in the present case, the particular facts surrounding this particular conversation make it exceptionally likely that we're dealing here with simply an overly chatty bailiff (and defendant), not one looking to circumvent Miranda.  Plus, it's a habeas case, so we've got mandatory AEDPA deference.  Given those realities, it's not at all surprising that the Ninth Circuit denies relief.

But, still, an interesting topic.  Just how far can a bailiff go in talking to the defendant without violating Miranda?